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    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: What are you working on this fine weekend? We would love to help you get that project done, solve the do-it-yourself dilemma. You’ve got a project you’re doing yourself? Great. You’ve got one that maybe is a little bit over your head and need to get a guide, need to get a gal, a pro in there to help you? Give us a call; we’ll sort it out. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    You know, it used to be that having a backup generator was reserved for the wealthy few or more often, businesses or healthcare facilities. Because when the heart-and-lung machine goes down in a power failure, it’s not good.

    LESLIE: No.

    TOM: The good news is that costs have come way down and standby generators are now being installed by homeowners in record numbers. So, coming up this hour, we’re going to have some tips to help you figure out exactly what it will take to get a standby generator installed in your home. It’s not as complicated or as costly as you might think and it’s a project that you might want to put on the to-do list for this fall or the year beyond.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Eighteen days without power. Thank you, Superstorm Sandy. You cannot even understand. Long Islanders truly have backup generators on the tip of their tongue as we head towards the fall season. I mean it’s just amazing. Something that people didn’t know anything about, now they seem to know a lot about.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: Well, also ahead this hour, you guys, we’ve got an easy way to save electricity. It’s a simple home improvement that you can do to make sure that lights aren’t left on in any empty rooms.

    TOM: Plus, we’re also going to get some tips this hour on how to use mulch in your yard to protect your shrubs and plants. That’s especially important now going into the fall. Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor from TV’s This Old House will be stopping by with some info on that project.

    LESLIE: And don’t forget, we wouldn’t be Team Money Pit without our very special listeners: you guys. And we always have great prizes up for grabs. So pick up the phone and give us a call because this hour, we’ve got a Filtrete Quick-Change Whole-House System. And you’re going to get fresh, clean water with just the turn of your tap.

    TOM: And that Filtrete system is going to go out to one caller drawn at random, so give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. It’s worth 98 bucks.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Charlene in Louisiana is on the line with a roofing question. What are you working on?

    CHARLENE: I have a shallow roof on my house. They call it a 2:3 pitch. It’s not flat but it’s very shallow, OK? Almost no attic, about maybe 2 feet in there. I was interested in an aluminum roof, like a lifetime roof? And I wanted to know which would be better: that or a regular shingle roof, like an architectural roof.

    TOM: You don’t have the pitch for an asphalt-shingle roof. You need to have at least a 3:12 or a 4:12 roof to put in shingles.

    CHARLENE: Well, I have shingles on it now and they’ve been there for 20 years.

    TOM: I’m telling you, you may but it’s not right. You can only put shingles on a roof that’s got a minimum pitch of 3:12 or 4:12. And if you’ve got them on there right now, count your blessings but it shouldn’t have been put on there. And any roofing manufacturer will tell you that.

    If you – your options, therefore, are either to do, say, a rolled roofing or a rubber roofing or a metal roof, as long as it’s rated for that low pitch. And I think a metal roof is a great investment if you’re going to be there for the long haul. But that’s what I would invest in because with that low of a pitch, you probably don’t see it very much and you want to make sure that it’s really going to be watertight. And with a low pitch, you just can’t use an architectural shingle; it just won’t work.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Ray in Minnesota who’s working on a decking project. How can we help you?

    RAY: Yeah. I just bought a house and it was built in 2008. And I have a big, wraparound porch and it looks like it’s never been really maintained since they built it. And so, especially with the Minnesota winters up here and the weather, looking to seal it but not really sure what to use and also not really wanting to have to do it every single year. So, just wanted to get some advice about what I could do.

    TOM: So, is the porch flooring a finished floor or is it like a deck, like pressure-treated?

    RAY: Pressure-treated wood. It’s a deck.

    LESLIE: And is there anything on it currently?

    RAY: No.

    TOM: So, what you can do is you could apply a solid-color deck stain to that.

    RAY: OK.

    TOM: And a solid-color stain is going to last longer than a semi-transparent or certainly a transparent stain. But you use a deck stain because deck stains also have some durability to them.

    LESLIE: Yeah. The benefit of the solid-color stain is that because it’s a stain, it’s actually going to penetrate the surface of the wood, so the color will actually get into the lumber itself. And then a solid stain, obviously, as more pigment to it. So, given the fact that your deck has had nothing on it for however many years, it probably looks a little worn in places and maybe worse for the wear. So a solid stain is going to sort of cover all of that up while giving you some color and still act as a stain, since that’s what it is.

    And your – generally, if you apply it correctly, you’re going to get about five years on horizontal surfaces and about seven years on vertical. It really depends on the weather conditions, the application, how you prep it. Is the wood totally dried out when you’re putting it on? But a solid stain is probably the best bet.

    RAY: OK, OK. I had one question about it. I have seen some commercials for some new products that are more kind of concrete-based, almost like more of a paint-type thing. What about those? Are those good or would you recommend using something like that or …?

    TOM: Don’t do it. I think you’re talking about the products that are like liquid siding and things of that nature. If you were going to consider a product like that, I would Google the name of that product and the word “complaints.” Because we’ve seen a lot of complaints about those products that claim to encapsulate the surfaces that they’re applied to. Just not working very well.

    I would stick with the basics. A good-quality, solid-color stain from a good manufacturer is going to last a long time and you certainly won’t be doing it every year.

    RAY: OK, great. Well, I really appreciate the information and the help. Thank you, again, for taking my call.

    TOM: You’re very welcome. 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.

    Happy Labor Day Weekend, everybody. Maybe you are taking advantage of this last, official summer weekend to relax and enjoy your money pit. Or maybe you’re getting ready for an autumn project. Whatever you are doing, we are here to give you a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Still ahead, if you’d like backup power that comes on auto-magically, a standby generator might be a right solution for you. You like that? Auto-magically?

    LESLIE: I like it.

    TOM: That’s what I think about when my standby generator kicks on. It kicks on auto-magically about 15 seconds after the power goes out. It’s like magic, I’ve got power again.

    You want to know how to get that kind of convenience in your house? We’ll tell you, after this.

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And the number here is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, one lucky caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win a Filtrete Quick-Change Whole-House Water Filter System worth $98. Now, everybody has got a reason for using water filters, whether it’s to improve water taste, reduce cloudiness or cut down on contaminants. But it really is a great way to save a ton of money by getting rid of those bottled waters, too.

    TOM: Yeah. And the Filtrete brand from 3M has a new line of do-it-yourself water-filtration products. They’re easy to install in an under-sink cabinet. And right now, you can save when you get one. Just visit FiltreteCoupon.com for more info on that. And give us a call right now for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Tony in Florida is dealing with some not-so-energy-efficient appliances. Tell us what’s going on.

    TONY: Yes. I have a Trane 19-SEER 3-ton unit. It has a dual-compressor on there. I also have a Pentair variable-speed pool pump and one of those heat pump – GE water heater.

    TOM: OK.

    TONY: And as far as I’m concerned, those are the two appliances that would be responsible for my big energy bill.

    TOM: OK.

    TONY: After installing those appliances, I am still looking at an energy bill ranging between 180 and 2.

    TOM: Wow. That’s expensive.

    TONY: Yeah.

    TOM: So, let me ask you something about the heat – the Trane unit that you put in. When you put that in, did you just replace the compressor outside or did you also replace any of the internal parts?

    TONY: The full unit, as well as replace and re-duct.

    TOM: A couple of things that you can check. One of which is to have the HVAC contractor – or if you know how to do this, check the amperage draw for the compressor when it’s running. That can be done from the electrical panel with an amp probe. See if we’re pulling any excessive amperage. I’m wondering if anything is broken in the compressors or the fan system that’s causing it to pull more power than it should. So, you can check that against the manufacturer’s specification on both the heat pump, frankly. The heat pump, it’s a heat-pump water heater, correct?

    TONY: Yeah.

    TOM: So, check the draw. Secondly, is there any other major consuming appliance in the house? How are you cooking? Are you cooking with electric heat – with electricity, I should say?

    TONY: Yes. I’m cooking with a heat-induction stove.

    TOM: Heat-induction stove, OK. So, you are using quite a bit of power for that. What I want is to get to the point where we’re breaking this down on a case-by-case basis, to try to figure this out.

    Here’s what I want to tell you to do, OK? You’ve got a lot going on in that house. This would be a really good case for an energy audit. There are energy auditors that you could usually find through your local utility company or you can find them independently. And in many areas of the country, there are rebates for these or they’re even free.

    Energy auditors can come in and look at every source of energy that’s being consumed in that house, as well as insulation, windows and doors, things like this. And the nice thing about an energy auditor is they’re not there to sell you stuff, you know? Sometimes, when you call a contractor and say, “I want an efficient heating system,” they sell you what they want to sell you. Energy auditors are kind of like home inspectors but they specialize in energy efficiency. And they can do an independent evaluation of all of the elements in the house and help you very accurately pin down where that energy is going.

    Sometimes it’s free because it’s paid for by the utility companies. In fact, some utility companies, as a condition of licensing, are required to provide energy auditors or low-cost auditors. Find a good one. Research them carefully and get an energy audit done of your house. And I think that that will help you stop speculating on where the power – where the energy is being used and where it’s not and get some real, factual data that could help you make some intelligent decisions on how to cut those costs. Does that make sense?

    TONY: Oh, yeah, that makes perfect sense.

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

    Well, just a few years ago, the thought of owning an emergency standby generator seemed almost silly because it was reserved for only those that were sort of the Doomsday prophets, if you know what I mean? But now, power failures are very common and many homeowners really can’t afford to ride out yet another power outage, as Leslie and I both did when Superstorm Hurricane Sandy struck the Jersey shore just about a year ago.

    LESLIE: Tom, it was really crazy. We were lucky to be able to go to my mom’s in the city who was one block north of that power outage. But I came home to my house on Long Island literally 18 days without power, with a newborn in hand a refrigerator full of rotten things.

    TOM: Yeah, right.

    LESLIE: I was like, “This could not be worse.” And in talking to my uncle, who lives in Manhasset on the island, you would think he invented a standby generator, the way he speaks so highly of it now.

    TOM: Yeah, well, the thing is, around here, folks have become generator prophets.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: They are definitely singing the praises of these things and for good reason. Because there are different types of standby generators and you need to determine everything, from your budget to how much power you want to restore when you consider one. But once you do, it makes a lot of sense.

    LESLIE: Yeah. A standby generator, what they’re designed to do is really restore just your most important 16 circuits. And while a whole-house generator covers everything – air conditioning and more – it’s really great. You can sort of pick and choose what you want and make that come back on. And the other part that’s really important of this equation is it’s got a transfer switch.

    So, as Tom mentioned earlier in the tease, when his power goes off, 15 seconds later the power is back on. What the standby transfer switch does is it senses when there’s no power coming into your panel because everything is wired together. And as soon as it senses there is no power coming to it, it starts up the generator and kicks it on. And one second, no light, next second, light.

    TOM: Absolutely. So, for all the options, you simply search “standby generators” at MoneyPit.com or give us a call if you’re thinking about that project. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    SHARON: Well, we have a cement patio. And one corner of it seems to be sinking lower than the rest of the patio.

    TOM: OK.

    SHARON: And there is a crack in the patio now but we’re wondering how we can take care of that. We talked to a contractor. He said that we would have to tear the whole patio out and repour that. But we’re wondering if there’s any way you can just put a new layer of cement over that part that’s sinking down, blend it in with what is already there and level it out.

    TOM: Yeah, it would be nice if that would work, Sharon, but I have to agree with your contractor. It will not work. The reason your patio is cracking is because the soil is unstable in this area and it’s sinking down.

    Now, is this crack the kind of thing that you’d be happy just repairing if we could tell you how to seal the crack? Or you just want to level it out?

    SHARON: Well, we would like to level it out because that corner seems to catch a lot of rain. When it rains quite a bit, the water runs to that corner. And if we get an excessive amount of rain, it starts running into the back porch.

    TOM: Yeah. And you know what? That’s a situation where it’s just making itself worse because the more water you get, the more sinking that patio is going to do. And that’s going to make it even worse.

    So, I think if it’s an area – if it’s an issue of controlling the water and trying to keep it away from the house and the patio is severely cracked and sinking, that it might be time to replace it. There’s nothing to be gained from putting a new layer on top of an old layer of patio. Absolutely nothing. So I would tear that out.

    And you’ll be amazed how quickly it comes out. Patios that are 4 to 6 inches thick break up very readily. And then have a new one put in properly sloped, the soil properly prepared, so it’s tamped well and doesn’t compress any more. And then take any steps necessary to keep water away from that: for example, looking at the grading, looking at the gutters, that sort of thing, just to stop water from collecting in that area. And that will help preserve it for the future.

    SHARON: OK. That’s not what I wanted to hear but I guess that our contractor was right.

    TOM: Yeah, he was. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Rhonda in Washington who needs some help with window cleaning. Tell us what you’re working on.

    RHONDA: Hi. Well, you know what? We bought new windows and then my husband turned the sprinkler on and now we’ve got water-deposit stains all over these new windows. And it’s on the west side of my house and it’s just baked on. And I cannot find any way to get that cleaned off and I was wondering if you had any suggestions.

    LESLIE: There’s actually a super-easy trick of the trade. Have you tried white vinegar?

    RHONDA: Oh, you know what? I soaked paper towels in white vinegar and just soaked it on there and it didn’t seem to do anything to it.

    TOM: Rhonda, have you tried LIME-A-WAY?

    RHONDA: Uh-uh.

    TOM: LIME-A-WAY is a cleaner that’s designed to dissolve mineral deposits. What you have are mineral salts. And it’s kind of like CLR. It’s made by Reckitt Benckiser. They’re a big cleaning manufacturing company. And it works very well on vinyl siding and other vinyl surfaces and I’m sure it will work well to take those deposits. It’ll take lime off; it’ll also take rust stains off.

    RHONDA: Soak it in a paper towel and stuff and then just put it on there like that and let it just sit?

    TOM: No, it’s a concentrate. You just mix it.

    RHONDA: Alright. Well, cool. Thank you so much. I love your show.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Still ahead this hour, mulch is more than just something that keeps your landscaping looking really neat and well-groomed; it actually helps protect your plants and your shrubs. We’re going to tell you how, when Roger Cook from This Old House joins us, after this.

    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: And you might have your A/C running right now but this is the time to take a look at your heating system before you need to start using it. You want to think about getting your furnace maintained now. It’s cheaper and it’s smarter than waiting until it gets cold. If you want to know what should be included in a service call, to kind of get your system ready to go for the winter, visit MoneyPit.com and you can search “heating-system service” right there. We’ve got an entire checklist so that you know what your service guy should be doing to make sure you’re good to go for the chilly weather ahead.

    LESLIE: Caitlin in Iowa is on the line and needs some help restoring an old bath. Tell us what’s going on.

    CAITLIN: Hi. My husband and I moved into our 1917 farmhouse about a year ago. And our main bathroom only has a clawfoot tub and we would like a shower in it. So I was wondering if you had any tips on restoring the clawfoot tub and installing a shower kit.

    TOM: So, you want to keep the tub, right? You don’t want to put a separate shower. You just want to basically plumb up a showerhead into that, correct?

    CAITLIN: Correct.

    TOM: Since it’s a clawfoot tub, if you disconnect the plumbing, then you can get that out of the house. Because the best way to refinish that or resurface that is to send it out to a company that does that. Because if you do it in the house itself, they can come in with acids and they can etch the old finish and they can add a new finish and then they can bring in heat lights and bake it on. But I’ve found that it doesn’t work nearly as well as basically sending it out to a place that’s set up to re-enamel a tub. And then you’re going to have one that really lasts for the long haul.

    And after that, installing a shower kit to that is pretty much a plumbing project. Lots of places, like Restoration Hardware, have kits or you can find them online. Or you could basically plumb up the pipe that comes up and then arcs over for the showerhead. And you need a circular shower curtain – shower bar above it for a curtain – and all that’s easy. But the hard part is getting the tub re-enameled.

    CAITLIN: OK. And how costly is re-enameling a tub?

    TOM: It’s probably not as expensive as buying a new tub and it’s going to last indefinitely.

    CAITLIN: OK. Well, thank you for your advice.

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

    LESLIE: For as long as there have been trees in the woods, leaves and needles have fallen on top of that soil to create what we call a “natural mulch.” And that protects and preserves the forest.

    TOM: And you can create that same protection for your own yard by adding mulch around your beds and your trees. Here with tips on the best way to accomplish that project is a guy who’s hauled probably more mulch in his career than I’d bet he’d like to recall: Roger Cook, the landscape contractor for TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Thank you. But there’s nothing like the smell of the first load of bark mulch in the spring, you know?

    TOM: Loves the smell of fresh mulch in the morning.

    I think homeowners think of mulch mostly as a decorative element but it really has a very important benefit to the plants underneath it, correct?

    ROGER: Yeah. I think decoration is the least of the things that mulch does. It’s a great thing for the soil because it modifies heat. You get a blanket, which stops those radical hot-and-cold streaks. But it holds moisture in the ground and that’s an important thing. And the third thing it does is it can stop weeds from germinating.

    TOM: Hmm. Good point.

    LESLIE: And it really does make your flowerbed look beautiful.

    ROGER: Well, it can but that’s not what I’m looking for.

    LESLIE: I know. But that’s not what we’re looking for.

    So, now, is there one type of mulch that’s better than others or does that really depend on your area?

    ROGER: It depends on your area. I’m a big believer in using a natural mulch from the area. Here in New England, we use a lot of ground-up pine and spruce and it makes a great mulch. And it works out really well and it breaks down. Some people use cypress or different things. Some of the species of woods could be a little questionable about their availability, so I really like to go with what’s native.

    And I like to buy in bulk, even if you’re just buying 2 or 3 yards. If you can get it, it’s much cheaper to buy in bulk than buy it by the bag. And environmentally, it’s better that way, too.

    TOM: And when it comes to mulch, I think folks confuse the mulch with the bark chips. And those are really more decorative, aren’t they?

    ROGER: Definitely decorative. They take a lot longer to break down.

    TOM: And really, the mulch, we really do want it to break down so that it does its job and insulates and it feeds the soil below.

    ROGER: Yes.

    LESLIE: What about grass clippings? I know that when you mow the lawn, if you want to sort of cut back on fertilization, you can use the clippings rather than bagging them and getting rid of them. Can you use those grass clippings in other areas of the yard or strictly for the lawn?

    ROGER: You can. But you have to remember a couple of things. If you use them in a vegetable garden, you want to make sure that that grass hasn’t been treated with any sort of chemical and then you’re bringing it to the vegetable garden. It does make a barrier which stops weeds from germinating. But as it starts to break down, it can get slippery and it can smell.

    LESLIE: Hmm. That’s a good point. I didn’t even think of that.

    ROGER: A much better point would be to take that grass and mix it with some leaves, some browns in a two-to-one brown to nitrogen – nitrogen being the grass – and do your own compost. Make compost out of it and then – rather than putting it strictly on the bed alone.

    TOM: Makes sense.

    We’re talking to Roger Cook, the landscape contractor from TV’s This Old House.

    So, Roger, if we have selected our mulch, we’re ready to do the project, how actually do we do that job? I mean do you always just add it on top of what’s there or do you want to kind of clean up the bed first?

    ROGER: That’s my biggest pet peeve is it looks like a volcano around a tree. You see mounds and mounds of mulch and it’s just crawling up the trunk of the tree?

    TOM: Right.

    ROGER: That can do more damage to the tree. It can cause a secondary root-system, girdling root. It can even cause the trunk to soften and allow bugs to get in there.

    What happens is people go around the edge of the bed with their edger and they throw that dirt on top of the last year’s mulch. And then they put more mulch on top of that year after year after year and it grows. What you really need to do, every two to three years, is go in and strip the mulch out of the beds. Then, go in and add an inch of mulch, re-edge your bed, which – and you take your half-moon edger, cut a nice, straight edge along that and leave the mulch down 2 or 3 inches where the grass meets the mulch. And that’ll stop the grass from growing into the bed.

    TOM: Roger, one of the questions we get on a fairly regular basis is about artillery fungus: this very small, sort of black speck that form around houses, sticks to siding, sticks to cars. Sometimes, people blame that as originating in the mulch. Have you heard of this?

    ROGER: I’ve heard of it a little bit. Not too, too much. But what I heard was found when there was a lot of wood in the mulch.

    TOM: OK.

    ROGER: A couple things to remember. When you buy mulch that’s more woody, it can be made up of a bunch of different things, including construction debris and 2x4s and things like that. So, I always thought that that fungus originated in bigger pieces of wood and that’s where it came from.

    Because, usually, the bark, if it’s really true bark, is natural things in there that inhibit funguses and things from growing on the bark, so …

    TOM: So you want the mulch made out of the bark, not out of the tree, sort of itself, the wood part of it.

    ROGER: Right, right. And like I said, a lot of times when you get mulch that’s got a lot of wood in it, it’s not tree wood, it’s construction wood.

    TOM: And most people think of mulch as wood, so that’s a really good distinction.

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: It’s the bark part of the tree that you want here, not the part of the tree that is really more of the structural end of it. It’s the skin.

    ROGER: Exactly.

    TOM: It protects the tree; it’s going to protect your beds.

    ROGER: Really helps.

    TOM: Good advice. Roger Cook, the landscape contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit, helping us get our beds ready for the season ahead.

    ROGER: Well, I hope I mulched you out a little bit.

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

    ROGER: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by The Home Depot. The Home Depot, more saving, more doing.

    Still ahead, more of your calls. Plus, a simple lighting change that you can do yourself will immediately help you start saving money and energy. We’ll tell you what it is, next.

    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. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    And one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to win a Quick-Change Whole-House Water Filtration System worth 98 bucks.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right. You know, it’s a great way to instantly cut down on cloudiness and contaminants and that could be in your water. And it actually improves the taste of your tap water, as well. Plus, you’re not going to need all those water bottles, that cost a lot of money, anymore either.

    TOM: This system is a do-it-yourself project and it’s easy to install. It’s available at Walmart and right now, you can even save some money when you visit FiltreteCoupon.com. The Filtrate Quick-Change Whole-House Water Filter System from 3M, it’s worth $98. Going out to one caller drawn at random, so pick up the phone, 888-MONEY-PIT.

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

    TERRY: Yes. I’m talking about some Styrofoam insulation in a basement. And my concern is a vapor barrier. Is it the proper way to put the plastic up against your foundation wall and then go with the Styrofoam? Or is that the correct way or wrong way or does it make any difference?

    TOM: Well, with Styrofoam insulation, since it’s not an organic material, you can put that right up against the foundation wall. You don’t have to put a vapor barrier over it first.

    So, are you going to frame-in the walls?

    TERRY: Yes. The walls are going to be all framed in and 2x2s and 2-inch Styrofoam will be inside 16-inch centers.

    TOM: So you’re going to attach the 2x2s to the concrete wall and then you’re going to put the Styrofoam in between that.

    TERRY: Yes.

    TOM: I’ve got to tell you that personally, I don’t like to do that. I like to leave space between the wall – the block wall – and the framed wall or the drywall because I think it allows it to dry out better if it gets damp down there. So I personally prefer to frame a wall inside the basement walls and not attach it to the outside.

    If you are going to attach it – or frankly, even if you’re not – you also should be aware that drywall is really a bad choice for a basement area. I would use a fiberglass-faced wallboard. There’s one called DensArmor – D-e-n-s-Armor. It’s made by Georgia Pacific, pretty readily available. More expensive than paper drywall but because of the fiberglass face, it can’t possibly grow mold and that’s definitely something to be concerned about in the basement.

    OK, Terry?

    TERRY: Alright. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Derwin in Texas who’s dealing with a fascia-board situation. Tell us what’s going on.

    DERWIN: I have a fascia board that is rotten. The way it’s put on there is I have a 1×4 fascia board that’s nailed up on there and then a 1×2 is nailed on the top portion of the fascia board.

    TOM: Yep.

    DERWIN: Which kind of – and the gutter is nailed to the 1×2, so I guess the 1×2 keeps the gutter from resting up against the fascia board, to keep it from rotting.

    TOM: Got it. Mm-hmm.

    DERWIN: But the drip edge – there’s a drip edge that’s nailed to the top, so like a 2×2 drip edge. And the top part of the drip edge is nailed to the roof deck and then it lays – the other half is – lays into the gutter.

    TOM: So what you want to know is how can you get the rotted fascia board out without taking apart your gutter and your drip edge and your spacer and all that stuff, right?

    DERWIN: Right.

    TOM: There’s no way to surgically remove the fascia; it’s like one part of the assembly.

    DERWIN: Right.

    TOM: So you’d have to take the whole thing apart. Now, it’s not a – it sounds like a lot of work. It’s not a tremendous project to get a gutter off. It’s not something you can do yourself because you don’t want to bend it, so you have to do it with some help to take the gutter off in one piece.

    But there is an opportunity here and that is that when you replace the fascia, I would not put wood fascia back. What I would do is I would use a product called AZEK – A-Z-E-K. This looks like wood, so it could look like that old 1×4 that you had, except it’s made of cellular PVC. So, it cuts like wood and it looks like wood but it never rots. So I would definitely suggest that this is an opportunity to improve the material that you’re using there.


    TOM: Now, whether or not you put back the spacer and the gutter the way it was before is up to you. You really don’t need to have a spacer. You could put the gutter right up against the AZEK and then have the roof just lay into the top of the gutter. That would be the most normal assembly for that kind of thing.

    But if you want the spacer and it just works out better because that’s the way it was before, then what you could do is buy 1×6 AZEK, cut a 1½-inch strip off of it, use that as a spacer and use the rest as – you’ll have a 1×4 left and you use that for the fascia and you’ll have the strip just in one piece.

    DERWIN: So it cuts just like wood.

    TOM: Looks like wood, cuts like wood, doesn’t rot like wood. 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. Still to come, we are going to share some tips for a money- and energy-saving lighting upgrade that’s super-easy for you to do. The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show continues, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by the new Chamberlain Garage Power Station, an air inflator, utility cord, and LED task light all together in a new, 3-in-1 tool. Exclusively at The Home Depot.

    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: We are standing by to take your questions, your calls on your home improvement projects. So give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    And if your question is, “Hey, how do I get my kids to remember to turn the lights off when they leave the rooms?” we’ve got a solution for you. It’s called an “occupancy sensor.” And here to tell us about it is Melissa Andresko from Lutron Electronics.

    Hey, Melissa.

    MELISSA: Hi, Tom. Hi, Leslie.

    TOM: So, the occupancy-sensing switch is something I have completely fallen in love with. Because I’ve got three teenagers and I – there’s a moment when you’re raising kids when you say, “I’ve become my father.” You know what I mean? You’ve become the parent. And I still hear in my brain the echo of my parents telling me to turn the lights off. And the occupancy-sensing switch is designed to do that and so much more. So give us the basics of how it works.

    MELISSA: You know, everybody has heard, “Who left the lights on? Don’t leave the front door open.” It’s kind of one of those classic phrases that everybody has had said to them at some point in their life. So, the sensor switch is hopefully going to bring an end to all those questions and all that yelling.

    But essentially, when I walk into a room, it’s going to automatically turn the lights on for me. And then while I’m in the space, it’s going to keep the light on. I don’t have to worry about the light shutting off prematurely and having to wave my hands in the air and say, “Hey, I’m still here.”

    And then when I leave the room, it’s going to automatically shut that light off. So, if I’m taking a phone call or if my hands are full, I don’t have to worry about reaching for that light switch or that dimmer. It’s just going to automatically do it for me and in turn, save a lot of energy and again, save a lot of parents from yelling at their kids.

    TOM: Yeah. And it’s an easy installation. I put about four of these in inside of an hour. So you’re talking about 10, 15 minutes apart and that’s with my 13-year-old helping me, which always doubles the installation time. But it really wasn’t difficult at all.

    Melissa, I want to talk a bit about the two modes that the occupancy-sensing switch is available in: occupancy and vacancy mode. Can you explain the differences? As Leslie was saying – that her son doesn’t like to go into a dark room. So that would be the occupancy mode, where the light automatically comes on. But in some cases, you don’t want that to happen; you want to be able to manually turn it on, correct?

    MELISSA: Correct. And vacancy mode is great for people just, most importantly, who have pets. Because if your pet is wandering around a house during the day, the sensor is most likely going to see your cat or your dog and it’s going to turn the light on. And most dogs and cats probably don’t need the lights to be turning on and off for them throughout the day. So, by putting it into vacancy mode, that means that when I walk into the room, I have to manually turn that light on. But what it does mean is that when I leave that room, it’s going to automatically shut it off.

    So, again, somebody has to physically turn the light on in vacancy mode in order to get those lights to come on. So, great for people with pets and select rooms of the house.

    TOM: We’re talking to Melissa Andresko. She’s the director of public relations for Lutron Electronics, manufacturers of the Lutron Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switches. You guys are actually giving away 150 of these switches, now, on your Facebook page. How is that working?

    MELISSA: Oh, it’s great, Tom. We love to be able to share new products with our Facebook fans. And you simply go to Lutron’s Facebook page, which is just Facebook.com/Lutron. “Like” us, fill out the contest entry form and before the end of August, we’ll be giving away 150 of our occupancy-sensing switches. So, head on over to the Facebook page and “like” us and hopefully you’ll win.

    TOM: Very cool. Melissa Andresko from Lutron Electronics, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    MELISSA: Thank you, Tom and Leslie. I appreciate it.

    TOM: Learn more about the Lutron Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switches at their website, which is Lutron.com – L-u-t-r-o-n.com.

    LESLIE: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you a hand with all of your Labor Day home improvements. I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: Remember, you can do it yourself …

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


    (Copyright 2013 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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