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How to Update Your Home Phone Service, Get Help with Your Electric Bill from Your Power Company, How to Control Humidity in Your Home, 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: Standing by to help you with your do-it-yourself dilemmas. Pick up the phone and help yourself first by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Take a look around your house. Yes, we know it’s hot, we know it’s sticky outside but we know there’s probably a home improvement project on your to-do list. Why not let us help you get that done, by picking up the phone and calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT? Is it a do-it-yourself project? Let’s make sure it doesn’t become a do-it-to-yourself project. We’ll get you started on the right foot. 888-666-3974.

    We’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up this hour, we know the price of a home phone is going up and up and up. But there is a way to get around the higher price and get cool, new features your regular phone carrier probably doesn’t offer. We’ll show you how to do just that, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And if you’re feeling the pinch when your electric bill comes, we’re going to have some advice for you. Believe it or not, your utility company might be able to help you lower your cooling costs. I know it sounds crazy but seriously, they can.

    TOM: Also this hour, wondering how to save money on your hot-water bill? Well, cold washes is a good start but do your clothes really get as clean as they do in hotter temperatures? You might be surprised at the answer.

    LESLIE: And we’ve got a very cool giveaway this hour. One lucky caller to 1-888-MONEY-PIT will get a copy of the book, The Best Homes from This Old House. It’s a look at 10 of the best transformations on the PBS show in the past decade. And what’s even cooler, you guys? It’s autographed by all of the show’s cast.

    TOM: So if you’d like to win that, pick up the phone and call us right now with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Eric in Hawaii on the line who needs help with a roofing question and Tom and I to come there and help in person.

    Welcome, Eric.

    ERIC: How are you guys doing?

    TOM: We’re doing great. How can we help you with your cedar roof?

    ERIC: Well, it is past its life, so I will need to replace it. It’s very expensive out here so I’m wondering, is there any other new products that I can put over – I’ve got skip-sheeted base.

    TOM: Right. You have space sheathing.

    ERIC: Yes, yes. So, is there any other product besides the cedar shake that I can go with that style? Or would I have to sheet it or – I’m looking for affordability.

    TOM: Alright. Maybe is my answer. Is that definite enough for you? I’m thinking about a product that’s a composite roofing shingle that’s called DaVinci Roofscapes.

    Now, these look more like a stone roof, like a slate roof, than they do a cedar roof. But they’re a tile product. So because they’re a tile-like product, I don’t know if you need to put a solid plywood sheathing underneath. I suspect that you will not have to. So you may be able to put them on in much the same way that you have with your spaced sheathing on the cedar.

    How old is that cedar roof, by the way?

    ERIC: Unbelievably, 30 years old.

    TOM: You know, it’s not unbelievable to me and here’s why. The fact that you have it on spaced sheathing means that it was able to dry out from the top and the bottom. Cedar is not waterproof so you wonder, “Well, why does it actually keep the water out of my house? Well, because it absorbs that water and allows the – most of it to run off. But the way it lasts as long as it does is it has to be able to dry very easily. And so many people that put cedar roofs on today nail them against tar paper on top of plywood sheathing and you really can’t get any air underneath it, so that’s why those roofs last a very short timeframe.

    So I think your options are either to consider a composite roof, like the DaVinci product – you can look online, find them at DaVinciRoofscapes.com – or you consider replacing the cedar or you could go with plywood and a new asphalt-shingle roof that looks like cedar. I would price it out all three ways, do a little more homework and then make the best choice for you.

    The nice thing about your roof is that it rarely is an emergency. I think you’re starting to identify the fact that it’s worn. I don’t know if you’ve had any kind of major damage. But generally, you can nurse a roof along for a year or two if you absolutely have to. But now is definitely the time to start looking into the options.

    ERIC: Alright. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Sherry in Alaska is looking for a way to keep her toilet seat warm in the winter. And in Alaska, Sherry, I imagine you want your butt warm in the wintertime.

    SHERRY: Boy, help me. Let me tell you. When you’ve got 15 feet of snow that you’ve got to wade through, it’s nice to have a warm toilet seat.

    TOM: Alright.

    LESLIE: You know, they actually do make heated toilet seats and they are sort of like after-market purchases that you can adapt to any toilet. And they range in price. And I mean it’s simple as just doing a Google search on a heated toilet seat but I would go with a reputable manufacturer of a toilet. Like KOHLER makes one that seems to be in the less-than-200 range. But on Amazon, I saw a couple of different ones that would range from 75 to 150 bucks.

    But just for peace of mind and knowing that I’m getting a good product that would go with the toilet I have – if you know the manufacturer of the toilet that you have, look to them. Because they do make heated seats.

    SHERRY: Well, yeah. And I wouldn’t want to have a malfunction with one of them.

    LESLIE: No.

    TOM: No, you definitely wouldn’t.

    And by the way, there’s also a type of mixing valve that can be installed, that will mix hot water in with the cold water that’s used to fill the toilet. So if the water is icy cold, that’s a way to take the edge off it, too.

    LESLIE: Then the bowl is cold.

    TOM: Because right, that could – makes the bowl cold, as well.

    SHERRY: Right. OK. Well, that’ll help keep the condensation down, too.

    TOM: Well, it definitely does. In fact, that’s the reason for that mixing valve. It’s sold specifically to stop the condensation problem. You can adjust how much hot water gets mixed in with the cold before the toilet gets filled.

    SHERRY: I appreciate your help. Thank you so much.

    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 question. Or whatever mid-summer’s home improvement project that you’ve got brewing, we are here to lend a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, you may have stayed up with all the advances in mobile phones but what about advances in your home phone? There have been many, including a way to stop paying for it. We’ll tell you how, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: Got a wood-staining project to do? Finish faster. Introducing Flood OneCoat Waterproofing Finish, the wood stain that lets you finish the same day you start. Most wood stains can’t be applied until days after prep. Flood OneCoat Waterproofing Finish can be applied just hours later. Learn more at Flood.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. If you give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT, not only will you get the answer to your home improvement question but one lucky caller who makes it on the air with us this hour will get a look at the greatest home transformations on PBS. We’re giving away the book, Best Homes from This Old House by This Old Househost, Kevin O’Connor.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And it shows the best interiors and exterior makeovers that the show has done over the past 10 years. And get this, this is really cool: it’s signed by every single one of those cast members. And I actually saw them do it, so it’s pretty awesome; I know it’s legit. You’re going to really enjoy this book, so pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Mitch in Texas on the line who’s dealing with a popcorn ceiling and like most people who have one, wants to get rid of it. Welcome, Mitch.

    MITCH: Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: So tell us what’s going on. Where is this popcorn ceiling? Is it truly popcorn? Are you sure it’s not a stucco texture?

    MITCH: No, it’s a true popcorn ceiling. What’s going on is in our bedroom, we’re wanting to get rid of the popcorn ceiling and make it just a flat ceiling. But the thing is, underneath the popcorn are circle paint patterns. You know how when they do ceilings, sometimes they’ll take that brush and create circles all throughout the …?

    TOM: Oh, you’ve got the double-whammy of textures: you’ve got popcorn and you’ve got textured spackle.

    MITCH: Correct.

    TOM: OK.

    MITCH: And so I’m wanting to know the best way, if there’s a product or something to help me get that off without having to replace the sheetrock or cover it up.

    TOM: Man, I tell you, that’s very difficult because the texture is probably in the spackle itself. And if they’ve done it the way I think they’ve done it, you have to sand that stuff off.

    I wouldn’t do it. What I would do is I would get 3/8-inch drywall and cover that, man, one 4×8 section at a time. I know it sounds like a lot of work but in the end result, it’s the quickest and – quickest way to cover it up with the best possible result because you’ll have flat, smooth, perfect ceilings. Even if you were to go through the hours and hours it would take you to get rid of the popcorn and the textured spackle underneath and then painted that, it’s always going to look uneven and a bit rough.

    MITCH: OK.

    TOM: So I really think the best way to do it is to just to put another layer of drywall. You don’t need to use ½-inch; you can use 3/8 or even ¼ on top of that. Spackle it, prime it, paint it and be done with it.

    MITCH: Now is there any special tool or thing to make the popcorn stuff come off that much easier or does it pretty much come off?

    TOM: No. You can – well, if you spray it with a little bit of water and then just use a spackle knife, you can get the chunky stuff off that way.

    LESLIE: Like a wide spackle knife.

    MITCH: Alright. Well, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Well, we all know about the amazing advances made in mobile technology for your phone. But there’s actually been some advances in technology for your home phone, including a way to avoid paying for those phone calls ever again.

    Ooma, a proud sponsor of The Money Pit, they have a way to make that possible.

    TOM: Now, first you need to understand what Ooma is. Ooma – that’s O-o-m-a – is a telephone system that delivers nationwide calling for free. How does it work? Well, it uses your high-speed internet connection to connect to your regular home phone. You get everything that home phone offers, plus it has some cool features, like a 911 alert. It’s a high-tech system that automatically sends texts or e-mails to three additional people when 911 is dialed from that line.

    Now, that system alone would be a great feature to use, perhaps for an elderly relative who lives alone or for families that have kids who might be home alone from time to time.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And another cool thing is it actually lets you answer your cell-phone calls from your home phone. And you can block telemarketers and any unwanted callers that you just don’t want getting through.

    If you want to learn more, go to Ooma’s website. It’s Ooma.com and that’s O-o-m-a.com.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Give us a call right now with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Jean in West Virginia who’s got a question about cleaning windows. Tell us what’s going on.

    JEAN: Hi. First of all, I’d like to say that I love your show.

    LESLIE: Thanks.

    TOM: Thank you.

    JEAN: I have a few Plexiglas windows in my home and there’s a cloudiness to them. I’ve tried cleaning them with vinegar and water, with the straight vinegar, Windex, even soap and water trying to get the dirt off of it and nothing keeps – I can’t use it. I haven’t found anything where I can clean them and I was hoping you guys might have a solution.

    LESLIE: Jean, unfortunately, you kind of said something that made me a little nervous about what’s been going on with your windows. You used Windex on the Plexiglas and while Windex is great for glass or surfaces, with Plexiglas it causes a reaction on the surface of the Plexi which then causes a cloudiness that is not removable.

    JEAN: Oh, so I did it to myself.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Unfortunately.

    LESLIE: There are special Plexi cleaners that you can pick up at home centers, supermarkets. They’re not hard to find; they’re made especially for Plexiglas and it’s the – it’s really – you can’t go back, though.

    JEAN: Oh, OK.

    LESLIE: Like once you’ve done it, it’s done.

    JEAN: OK. And I can find that at Lowe’s?

    LESLIE: Oh, completely. Any home center, you’ll find it. It’ll be in the cleaning aisle and make sure it’ll say “special Plexiglas cleaner.” And it’s made specifically for that, because otherwise it causes a chemical reaction.

    JEAN: Oh, OK. I understand. Alright. Wonderful. Well, I do appreciate that.

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

    JEAN: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Eric in West Virginia is on the line and he’s got some stuck doors in the house. What’s the matter? You’re locked in?

    ERIC: No, no, no, no. There’s this inoperable door that we no longer (audio gap). We can’t get out that way or come in.

    TOM: So describe these doors to us. Tell us what they look like and tell us how difficult they are to get to open.

    ERIC: They’re just – they’re wooden doors with – they’re modern-lock doors. They have wood on that side and then glass.

    TOM: Full-height glass?

    ERIC: Glass, yes.

    TOM: OK. So when doors get stuck, it’s usually because they’ve swollen in place. Now, the other complication here is that these are so stuck you can’t actually move the handles. If they are hinged doors, what you’re going to probably end up doing is having to remove them off the hinges to try to free them up.

    Once you get them out the first time, then you can try to examine where they’re jamming. There’s usually some evidence on the door somewhere: some rubbing, some abrasion where you can tell where it’s really stuck. And you can start to abrade or plane away or sand away some of those high spots until you get a door that swings easily and closes correctly.

    As far as the hardware is concerned, possibly when you get the pressure off the door to get them out of there, that might start to work again. The other thing to keep in mind is that very often you can adjust the door’s placement by moving the hinges. If the hinges are deeper down into the jam, for example, that will create some room on the other side of the door.

    But a combination of those moves could be very effective in freeing these doors up. Eric, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    JANET: My house is over 100 years old and there was a large, three-trunk tree in the backyard that had to be cut down. But it had so many nails in the tree that after using two chainsaws and losing the chains because there were so many nails in it, we have this humungous trunk left in the backyard. And I’d like to know how to get rid of it, because I can’t use the grinder on it.

    TOM: Why can’t you use a – well, you mentioned chainsaws. But why not a trunk grinder: the type of grinder that tree services have that basically ground down or grind down the stumps to below-grade? That sort of grinder should certainly be strong enough to handle the nails that are in the tree.

    JANET: OK.

    TOM: So I would have a pro come out and use a stump grinder. And that’s the best way to get rid of that. You don’t have to get it all out; just get it down to below the surface and Mother Nature will do the rest.

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

    LESLIE: Nancy in Oregon is on the line with a kitchen-counter question. How can we help you?

    NANCY: Yes. Thank you so much. What I’m calling about is an overlay that I’ve seen advertised of granite over Formica. We have a very tight, sturdy, Formica countertop in the kitchen and I’m wondering whether this is a practical solution or not.

    TOM: Hmm. A granite overlay over Formica? I’m not really familiar with this.

    LESLIE: Are they presenting it as tiles or is it an additional layer of laminate, that looks like granite, that’s placed over?

    NANCY: As I understand it, it is granite – full granite – except that they can use the base instead of starting, literally, from scratch, as I understand. Now, I haven’t had the man out; I’ve just seen it advertised but …

    TOM: OK. Well, you know what doesn’t make sense to me with this? Granite cannot have any flex in it whatsoever and laminate tops, by their very design, are fairly flexible. So any type of granite veneer, if that’s what this is, it seems may not stand up well. So, I think that we would need more information to feel very comfortable recommending that. But I can tell you, just based on the description, it doesn’t sound like it makes a lot of sense.

    And countertops are not so complicated to replace that it really makes any sense doing any kind of a laminate on top of that or a second layer on top of that. If you want a new countertop, get a new countertop. You don’t take a countertop and build more on top of it.

    NANCY: I see. Well, I thought it might be sturdier and be less costly and so you’ve answered my question. I guess it’s not such a great idea.

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

    NANCY: Well, thanks for your professional advice on this.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, you could be enjoying a nice, cool, air-conditioned home until the electricity bill arrives and you see red. We’re going to talk about ways your utility company can actually help lower that bill, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by BATH FITTER, the one-day bathroom remodeling company. Call 866-654-BATH today for your free, in-home estimate or visit www.BATHFITTER.com.

    TOM: Well, now that we are smack-dab in the middle of the dog days of summer, it’s that time of year when you want to make sure that every energy dollar counts so you don’t get burned by your electric bill. But the good news is is that your electric company might be able to help. Many are using tools that range from low-tech to high-tech to help consumers stay cool in these months.

    We’re joined now by Steve Rosenstock, who heads up the Energy Efficiency Group at the Edison Electric Institute, with some tips on what’s available for consumers.

    Hi, Steve.

    STEVE: Hi. How are you doing?

    TOM: Well, these are the days when the air conditioners are just running 24-7, it would seem, right? Hot, sticky, muggy. And that means that we’re going to be paying a lot these months for our cooling bills. What are some things that we can do to lower those and how can the utility companies help?

    STEVE: OK. Well, there’s a lot of tips on the EEI website, as well as other energy-efficiency websites. But especially during the summer season, one of the biggest things you can do is to make sure that your central air conditioner or central heat pump has been tuned up for the year.

    Getting a tune-up can be really important, especially for older units, to make sure it’s operating at peak efficiency. Because if there is a – for example, if for some reason some refrigerant has leaked out or there’s some issues with the outdoor condenser, that can really drive up the energy use by the air conditioner or heat pump. So getting a tune-up before it gets really hot is – can be really important in terms of saving energy during the summer season.

    TOM: Now, besides the tune-up, that’s just one step in many that can actually help us cut some of those cooling costs. What about online energy audits that are available today? Do you think that they’re useful as a tool for homeowners to use to really figure out where the biggest energy leaks are, so to speak, in their homes?

    STEVE: Absolutely. There are some – many utilities offer online energy audits and they give a lot of information to the homeowner in terms of areas that – where they can definitely get the biggest bang for their buck in terms of upgrades.

    The thing with those audits, though, is sometimes the more information you can put in – so it can take some time to really do it properly. Because the more detailed the audit is, the more likely it’s going to provide good information to help people save on their electric bills.

    TOM: Let’s talk about smart meters. We’re hearing more and more of those today. I’m sure, over the next decade, you’re going to see a lot of folks trading out their old – I guess they would be analog meters, for the high-tech, digital smart meters. What is that going to do for our comfort, for our energy efficiency, for our communications? How does a consumer – going to benefit from a smart meter?

    STEVE: Well, I think it’s really kind of – it could be kind of a – for some people, especially, it’s going – it could be a game changer. Because, basically, for most people, unless you’re one of those energy geeks, like me, who looks at his meter every few days to see how they’re doing, with a smart meter it’s really about providing real-time information to the customer, which really hasn’t happened before. Or daily information or hourly information.

    I mean for the most part, people get their information once a month and then they pay the bill and then that’s kind of it. And then they might be concerned if it’s a huge difference compared to last month or last year. Well, with the smart meters, it really transcends in the way the – a lot of the utilities are doing it – is it basically allows you to see – what did you use yesterday? What did you use yesterday at 2:00 in the afternoon or the hour between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m.? And some of them are showing how much that cost you.

    So, really, for the people who are really into trying to save energy – for example, if you know your air conditioning was cranking at 2:00 yesterday afternoon, your smart meter will let you know, basically, what your house used, which is primarily air conditioning, at that time and how much it was costing you. And then it’s a matter of – or if your air conditioner was tuned up – let’s say you had a hot day, it was tuned up on the hot day, then the next day – well, how much did the tune-up help you? Did it really help you save on those really hot days or on the cooler days?

    TOM: Instead of just trying to figure out what the changes and how they are going to impact your electric bill, this system really gives you the data so that there are no – there’s no guesswork anymore, correct?

    STEVE: Right. You will really know what happened, what the impact was. Or if you’re just trying to say, “OK, what if I turn off this light or turn off this fan, what happens? Will it make a difference or how much of a difference will it make in my daily or monthly electric bill?”

    Now it’s really going to be – the amount of information is going to be quite amazing. And also, obviously with communications protocols, it might be that a person on their smartphone or iPad or some other device can really start doing things remotely. If they want to see – “We’re not home. How much is – electricity is my house using when I’m not there?” You’ll probably be able to do that.

    TOM: Now, if a consumer doesn’t have a smart meter yet, is this something they should be asking the utility company for?

    STEVE: Yeah. There’s certain utilities that have kind of run out of the gate faster than other utilities but I believe it’s about 20 to 25 percent of the U.S. population has smart meters now. And I think by 2015, at least a third or maybe up to 50 percent – I haven’t checked the projections lately. But it’s really utility by utility how they’re installing it and what their timeframe is.

    So, yeah, I think yes, ask your utility about what their schedule is for updating their meters.

    TOM: Now, you guys are also in support of the White House’s Green Button initiative. Can you tell us about that and how that’s going to help consumers?

    STEVE: Yes. The Green Button initiative, I believe there’s 21 utilities involved with it right now. It’s basically an icon for those customers with the smart meters already, where basically if you’re on the utility website, if you look for that icon – if you click on it, then it gives you that information. And again, it could be daily information or hourly or the day-before information and cost. It’s basically a way – it’s a common icon so that people with smart meters can click on it and get the information from their meter that they’re looking for.

    TOM: So kind of standardizing the information. You become very familiar with the way the information is being delivered to you.

    STEVE: Yes. Now, different utilities might deliver the information differently in a different format but it’s basically – the main thing is the energy use at a certain period that the customer is interested in and then the cost of the energy based on that time period, as well. But other utilities might add other features to it, as well, but I think there’s going to be certain basics – information provided to all the customers based on that Green Button. But again, there might be other apps that might be of real value to customers as part of that Green Button, that utilities might develop on their own.

    TOM: Before I let you go, single most important thing a consumer can do today to cut cooling costs.

    STEVE: Well, single most important thing, again I think I have to go with – I like to do a top few of them, basically. I think the tune-up is very important but also checking your thermostat setting. And if you can – if you have a programmable thermostat, if you know people are not out of the house, raise the thermostat a few degrees and then have it come back on a few minutes before you get home so it’s nice and comfortable for you when you get home. But the tune-up and the programmable thermostat are two of the biggest things.

    TOM: If you’d like to get some more information from the Edison Electric Institute, you can head on over to their website at EEI.org or, as Steve said, good idea to take a look at the website for your local utility company. Find out what programs they have to help you save energy and be more comfortable this summer.

    Thanks, Steve.

    STEVE: Thank you very much.

    LESLIE: Alright. Still ahead, are you wondering if washing your clothes in cold water will really get the job done as well as hot water? Well, we’re going to share the dirt on your laundry, next.

    ANNOUNCER: Got a wood-staining project to do? Finish faster. Introducing Flood OneCoat Waterproofing Finish, the wood stain that lets you finish the same day you start. Most wood stains can’t be applied until days after prep. Flood OneCoat Waterproofing Finish can be applied just hours later. Learn more at Flood.com.

    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. And the number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’re going to help you with your home improvement questions but one super-duper-lucky caller who makes it on the air with us this hour is going to get a copy of the book, The Best from This Old House.

    And I mean it’s a gorgeous book. The pictures are fantastic. Lots of inspiration. And it really is a beautiful look at the best renovations from the past decade of PBS’ This Old House. And it’s been signed by each and every cast member. So it’s priceless and it’s totally rad.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, it’s time now for a Dependable Tip, presented by the experts at Maytag.

    Now, you’ve heard all the talk of high-efficiency washing machines that can get clothes clean in cold water. And you’ve probably also seen detergents designed specifically for this purpose. But you might still be wondering about the effectiveness of cold- versus hot-water cycles. We know warmer temperatures do the job but you’d also love the cost savings of a cold-water wash.

    Well, now you can pretty much be assured that today’s technology in washing machines is designed to definitely make those cold-water washes come out top-notch.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You know, modern appliances, they really have come a long way from your grandmother’s old wringer-washer and so has the technology inside of them.

    Now, cold-water wash settings on machines like the Maytag Bravos XL, they’re now slashing energy costs and helping the planet. And the enzymes in cold-water detergents actually do clean your clothes very well. Bravos XL washers and dryers are designed, engineered and assembled right here in the U.S.A. And the washer comes with a 10-year limited warranty.

    TOM: And at 4.6 cubic feet, this is Maytag Brand’s largest, high-efficiency capacity, top-load washer. It’s also the first product on the market with a cycle developed specifically for use with high-efficiency, cold-water detergents.

    So for more information on this Dependable Tip and other Maytag products, you can visit Maytag.com.

    LESLIE: Blair in North Dakota, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we help you with today?

    BLAIR: Yes. Say, on one of your previous shows, I heard that you got – I got this white mold or fuzz that grows on the cement floor in the basement.

    TOM: OK.

    BLAIR: And I have a – it’s a finished basement. And the thing is, I heard that you have vinegar-and-water to clean it up.

    TOM: Yeah. And let me tell you, you’re calling it mold but I don’t think it’s mold; I think it’s mineral-salt deposits. Because mold doesn’t grow on concrete; mold needs an organic material to make it grow. But typically, what happens is if you get high water, moisture, humidity, you will get – some of that water will evaporate off and leave its salts behind. So you end up getting this sort of white, grayish crusty stuff that will form on block walls and also concrete floors.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And you’ll even see it around faucets, like in your kitchen if water sort of pools there. It’s just the mineral.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s right. And the reason that vinegar-and-water makes it go away is because the vinegar melts the salts.

    LESLIE: More vinegar than water, though.

    TOM: Yes.

    LESLIE: And white vinegar.

    BLAIR: Is there anything there that you can keep it from coming back?

    LESLIE: Maintain your water and moisture on the outside of your house.

    TOM: Yeah. Improve your drainage and your gutters at the outside of the house; that’s generally what causes it. If your gutters are clogged or not discharging well enough away from the foundation, if your soil is not sloping away from the walls, those two things cause this problem on a very frequent basis.

    BLAIR: Yeah, we’ve got a sump pump in the basement and we’re kind of in a …

    TOM: Does it go off when you get heavy rain?

    BLAIR: No, not really.

    TOM: Yeah. Does it go off other times?

    BLAIR: Well, yeah. We got – you know, it kind of – how do you say it – water troubles here in North Dakota so …

    TOM: Well, if your water troubles get worse after a heavy rain, then it’s sourcing at the drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter. I would start with those. Even if you did have a high water table, it’s very likely that poor drainage conditions at the foundation perimeter are the number-one cause of this.

    BLAIR: OK. Thank you.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, during these hot, dog days of summer, do you find that your kitchen gets all kind of claustrophobic-feeling? Well, why not bust out of that space by building yourself an outdoor kitchen that will be the talk of the neighborhood? We’re going to show you how, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by LIQUID NAILS. For tough jobs, demand the extraordinary strength of LIQUID NAILS Brand Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive. It bonds a wide range of materials, indoors and out, for a job done once, done right. Learn more about LIQUID NAILS Brand Heavy-Duty Construction Adhesive at LIQUIDNAILS.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.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. You can also post your question on MoneyPit.com. Either way, we would love to hear from you.

    Hey, typically in this part of the program, Leslie, we take e-mails. I want to actually share a couple of personal e-mails I got this past week from folks that I know in and around my area.

    LESLIE: Oh, I love it. Let me hear.

    TOM: I actually had given some specific advice to do. Being the home improvement expert, occasionally friends and friends of friends will reach out to me for some advice.

    So, one woman – her name is Linda – had a problem where a neighbor’s house – it was a connected unit, like a town house – had actually leaked into her house, causing a fair amount of mold damage.

    Now, her insurance adjuster comes in, offers her 1,200 bucks to fix the damage and wants her to sign on the dotted line and take the check. She smartly declined to do that, contacted me. And I suggested what I’ve suggested many times on this show is that she hire a private insurance adjuster.

    So here’s what happened. The private insurance adjuster, of course, works for you, not the insurance company. They’re sort of like your own consultant. Here’s how they get paid. Through her attorney, she was able to find a good one. The guy came in and said, “Look, if I don’t get any more than 1,200 bucks that the guy offered you, you don’t owe me a dime, alright?” So, no loss there. And then whatever he does get, he gets 10 percent. “I like this, because we’re all in business to get me as much money as I can for my claim.”

    So it turned out that his initial assessment was between $2,500 and $3,000: at least double, if not triple, what the insurance-company adjuster had suggested. Because guess what? The insurance company guy missed a whole bunch of stuff. So it just goes to show you that it’s not a good idea to take the opinion of the insurance adjuster but to actually get a private adjuster so that you know you have somebody that’s really on your side when it comes to getting what you’ve paid them for for all these years.

    Make sense?

    LESLIE: It makes a lot of sense.

    TOM: Well, would you like to be able to really live in your outdoor living area? Why not build an outdoor kitchen? Leslie has tips in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You guys, you pore over magazines, you’re looking online, you see all of these inspirational photos of outdoor kitchens with ranges and pizza ovens and chandeliers. They’re gorgeous, right? But those of us who aren’t among the richie-rich and famous, we can have something like that, too, you guys.

    All you really need is a great grill and some weatherproof décor. Now, if you can afford to add a prep space and cabinets, go for it. If not, some simple backyard tables will do the trick.

    Now, you can also have a dedicated refrigerator for outside, as well. It’s a great place to keep your drinks cold and your leftovers from going bad during the party and also keep things, you know, that you’re ready to throw on the grill cool until you’re getting them actually on the grill.

    Now, my advice is to have an understanding of your home’s architectural style so that your outdoor kitchen compliments your indoor living space, whether you’ve got a Victorian, a Craftsman or a ranch-style home. And no matter what your style, think about a fire pit. They add instant ambiance and warmth and they’re going to let you enjoy your outdoor kitchen or your outdoor seating area, whatever it is, well into the cooler months. They really are a great and affordable, I might add, addition to any outdoor room.

    TOM: Good advice.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next week on the program, these past few years we’ve really seen an increase in the options available for kitchen countertops. We’re going to help you decide which kind of surface is right for your kitchen needs, on the next edition of The Money Pit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


    (Copyright 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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