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Important Steps to Take Before You Dig, Design a Beautiful Deck Yourself, How to Protect Yourself When Hiring a Contractor, 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: Standing by to help you with your home improvement projects. So pick up the phone and help yourself, first, by calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s show, it could save your life but close to half of you don’t do it. Learn why calling 811 before you tackle any yard projects that involve digging is absolutely critical.

    LESLIE: Now, one of those projects might be installing a dream deck. We’ve got tips to help you design a deck to rival those in those fancy home décor magazines.

    TOM: And also ahead, we’re going to teach you how to make sure you’re covered if a contractor working at your home is injured on the job or if your home is damaged during the project.

    LESLIE: And one caller this hour is never going to have to ask “Who left the lights on?” again. We’re giving away a Lutron Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch that’s going to turn those lights on with a motion sensor.

    TOM: So, give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Amy in Iowa is on the line with a question about a dirt basement. Tell us what’s going on.

    AMY: Hi. I recently have purchased an old farmhouse and in the basement, it has a dirt floor. And I was wondering if I should lay concrete on it or if I can lay that thick plastic and put gravel on top to help with the radon and try to keep some of the heat in there.

    TOM: Do you know that you have a radon problem?

    AMY: Well, I don’t. They talk about it in Iowa being an issue. And with it being a dirt floor, I didn’t know if that was something I should have tested first or go ahead and just leave the plastic and the rock and be …

    TOM: I would definitely test because you don’t know what you’re dealing with. You may have to put stone down and then put a concrete floor and then do a ventilation system where you draw the gas up off from underneath the concrete. So, the first thing you have to do is test.

    So, do it yourself or hire somebody. And do it right. The testing has to be done under closed building conditions with all the windows and doors closed, except for normal exit and entry. And find out what you’re dealing with and then you can take the appropriate steps after that. But don’t just put it down thinking that if you have a radon problem, it’s going to solve it. Because frankly, it may not.

    AMY: OK. Alright. Well, thank you so much for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got Sandy calling from Ohio who’s working on a painting project. How can we help you today?

    SANDY: Yeah, I was looking for a product that you can take the varnish off your old kitchen cabinets without having to sand them. I was told there might be some new products out.

    TOM: Well, there’s actually a product that’s been around since 1936 that works and that’s called Rock Miracle. So not exactly new but does a great job. They’ve got a couple of different versions of it but it’s designed specifically to take off varnish. There is a liquid, no-wash remover that basically removes paint, finishes and varnish that you can use. You can check out their website at RockMiracle.com.

    But if you want to avoid most of the sanding, that’s a good place to go. And they have some environmentally-friendly versions of the product, too.

    SANDY: OK. Sounds good. Alright. Thank you very much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome, Sandy. 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. Now you can call in your home repair, home décor, home design, home improvement, anything-to-do-with-your-home question 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, one phone call could save you thousands of dollars in damage. Learn why calling 811 before digging is crucial for all your outdoor spring projects.

    ANNOUNCER: Starting an outdoor staining project? Make it faster and easier with Flood Wood Care products. Start today at Flood.com/Simplify and use the interactive selection guide to find the right Flood Wood Care products for your project. Flood, simple across the board.

    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: Pick up the phone right now and give us a call. We are standing by to answer your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And if you do get on the air with us, you might just win an occupancy-sensing switch by Lutron.

    This is a very cool product because it senses when someone has walked in the room and switches the light on and switches it off when the room is empty. So there’s no more asking “Who left the lights on?” which happens a lot in my house because I’ve got kids.

    It’s worth $22. Going to go out to one caller that reaches us with their question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And you can see all of Lutron’s great, green home products at LutronSensors.com. That’s LutronSensors.com.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Bill in Delaware who’s looking to install a new roof. How can we help you with that?

    BILL: What I’m looking for is some – a little guidance in the type of roofing material and the – as to the ventilation that they talk about. I’ve talked to a couple of people and they – one had talked about a roof vent which is, I think, in the peak of the roof. And the other contractor that I talked to said that you needed a thermostatically-controlled thing in there that would control the heat and the humidity in the – in your attic.

    TOM: Yeah, Bill, that’s a great question. You’re talking about the difference between a ridge vent, which goes down the peak of the roof, and an attic fan, which is mounted in the roof and is controlled by a thermostatically-controlled switch, as you said.

    BILL: Right.

    TOM: Now, what we would recommend is passive ventilation, so that’s not the attic fan. It’s a continuous ridge vent matched with continuous soffit vents. They’re actually far more effective than the attic fan. But there’s one additional, major benefit and that is the ridge and soffit vents working together are not going to steal air conditioning from your house.

    You have central air conditioning?

    BILL: Yes, I do.

    TOM: Well, if you turn that attic fan on, it will not only depressurize your attic but it can also dig deep into the living space of your house, because there’s all sorts of nooks and crannies where wires and pipes come through walls. And they’re all connected, thermally speaking, to the inside of your house. So what we’ve seen is that when you turn the attic fan on, it can actually depressurize into your house, as well, and steal away some of the air-conditioned air.

    So, attic fans are only recommended in the rarest of circumstances. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that – this contractor probably started putting them in when he first got in business and just never stopped and certainly is another profit center. But I just don’t think it’s a good idea except in very limited circumstances. I think what you want is continuous ridge and soffit ventilation. That will do the best job.

    BILL: OK. Alright. What about the type of roofing material? I’ve seen some that look like thatch and some that look – that they give a kind of appearance of being thatch even though they’re the asphalt or whatever type of it.

    TOM: Right. Well, they’re all going to be asphalt-shingle roofs but you’re – what you’re talking about is something called a dimensional shingle. And a dimensional shingle can look like a wood shake, it could look like a slate tile, it could look like red-clay roofs. They’re all good – all made of asphalt. And they’re very good today at the way these shingles are produced to give you that effect.

    I would take a look at some of the roofing products made by Owens Corning. They do a really good job with this. And they’ve got roofs, especially in the coastal area of Delaware where you live, they’ve got roofs that can stand over 100 mile-an-hour winds.

    BILL: OK. I’ll look at that. And I appreciate it and I thank you for your time.

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

    Well, as you plan your spring projects, there’s one thing you need to keep handy that’s more important than pretty much any tool you own. And it’s the phone number you must call before digging. It’s simply this: 811.

    Now, when you dial it, you’re going to reach the Common Ground Alliance. Now, this is an organization that’s dedicated to protecting underground utility lines and the safety of people who dig near them. This effort has been going on for several years after some devastating and deadly accidents that were caused by digging into underground gas, electrical or water lines.

    LESLIE: When you call 811 a few days before you start digging, a professional locator is going to visit and mark your dig site. Once your site has been accurately marked, it’s safe to start digging.

    Now, it’s a pretty easy process. However, the Common Ground Alliance recently announced results from a survey that found 48 percent of homeowners who are planning landscaping, fencing or decking projects do not plan on calling 811. When they’re asked why, more than half said they felt they knew where the underground utilities were located on their property. And many more said that they just didn’t think they’d be digging deep enough to hit anything. Those are some pretty famous last words.

    TOM: Well, do yourself a favor and call 811. If you’re planning work for the weekend, just give them a call on Monday or Tuesday and save yourself the inconvenience of lost power or water or worse yet, an injury that could put you out of commission.

    If you want more information on how the service works, just call 811 or visit 811.com for more information.

    LESLIE: Next up, we’ve got Pat in Georgia who needs some help with a cleaning project. What’s going on?

    PAT: I have granite countertops. And I am wondering if there is an advantage to using the store-bought cleaners versus a homemade cleaner. And what would the homemade cleaner be?

    TOM: So I guess you don’t have a recipe for a homemade cleaner. Is that what you’re saying?

    PAT: No, I don’t.

    TOM: If you happen to run across one that you like, tell us about it because I have not found one. But I will say that the commercial cleaners are usually very well-developed and are designed to give you a longer-term protection than you can probably get out of anything that you could mix up on your own countertop.

    There’s a website called StoneCare.com that specializes in these types of products. And our listeners have always had good success with them, so I would take a look at that website.

    But the thing about granite tops is a lot of folks buy them and think, “Well, it’s stone. I’m not going to have to do much work to the top.” But the truth is it’s a lot of work, isn’t it, Pat?

    PAT: It very certainly is.

    TOM: It really is. And if you don’t stay on top of it, it gets pretty nasty-looking. So, you are going to have to invest in some regular cleaning and I would just buy a good-quality product from a good brand manufacturer and just accept it as reality, OK?

    PAT: Thank you so very much.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Mike in Wisconsin on the line with an interesting mix of materials on a foundation. Tell us what’s going on.

    MIKE: Well, we bought this old farmhouse and – well, we’ve been in it for 20 years now. But whoever – the person before us covered this nice, stone foundation with ½-inch plywood that was not treated.

    TOM: Wow.

    MIKE: And then they made strips out of the same plywood as batts to go over the seams. Needless to say, it’s all rotting out. I mean it did have ½-inch-depth, foil-covered, ½-inch foam board behind it but I need something that’s going to be – hold up to the weather and …

    TOM: Wow. I’d pull that wood off and evaluate the foundation. If it’s deteriorated, you might need to clean it and re-stucco the whole thing. That’s all I would do there. I wouldn’t put any kind of siding back on it.

    They probably just thought that it looked good or something of that nature and decided that they were going to dress it up with that.

    LESLIE: Well, it’s interesting.

    TOM: Yeah, they were going to dress it up with that T1-11 siding but obviously, that was a disaster waiting to happen. And now it’s happened and it’s in your house.

    MIKE: Yeah. Well, it wasn’t even the T1-11; it was just ½-inch plywood and they painted it.

    TOM: Oh, well, of course.

    MIKE: But it’s the round-type fieldstone; it’s not the flagstone.

    TOM: Well, that can be very attractive.

    LESLIE: Yeah. I’m like, “That’s beautiful.”

    MIKE: Well, that’s what I was thinking but I need to evaluate it.

    TOM: Yeah.

    MIKE: But I thought – I was listening to you last week and I figured, well, let me get some ideas (inaudible at 0:12:50).

    TOM: Yeah, take a look at it. If it’s the fieldstone, the fieldstone looks good, you may need to repoint the joints with some additional cement.

    LESLIE: But that’s gorgeous.

    TOM: But that could be a very, very attractive foundation.

    MIKE: Thanks for the help.

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

    LESLIE: John in Massachusetts is on the line and needs some help finding a good, licensed contractor. Good question, John. How can we help?

    JOHN: I own a home in New Bedford and the original part of the house was – it used to be in – back in 1940, it was a one-room candy store and they put additions onto it. And the one-room part of the house that was original – from 1925, when they built it – it was – the sills are rotted. Not because of termites, because I just had it checked out; there’s no active termite damage at all. It’s because water was getting in on the bad side of the house, on the weather side.

    And I found that out right after I bought the home but I never got around to fixing the sills. I temporarily – repaired it temporarily until I can get a contractor that’s licensed. Because in the past, I worked with – I’ve gotten contractors that said they were licensed and they’re not; they just lie. They get it on their card and they aren’t even licensed.

    TOM: Well, I think you can confirm all that with the local licensing authorities but …

    JOHN: Yeah, yeah. I know that now but yeah, it was a really hard way to go with a few of the contractors I’ve dealt with in the past, you know? They take the down payment, then they wouldn’t show up for weeks and weeks and weeks and I have to call them and …

    TOM: So, things are a little bit easier today because of the advent of the internet, frankly.

    JOHN: Yeah.

    TOM: The fact is that there’s a lot of places where you can research and see contractors and check out their reviews and find one that’s good. One of the websites that was one of the first ones is Angie’s List.

    JOHN: Yep, I called them.

    TOM: They’ve done well with that site. They’ve expanded to other areas, including medical. But as far as contractors are concerned, that was one of their first groups that they had on the site. And there are lots and lots of reviews from people like yourself that have had positive and not-so-positive experiences with contractors.

    So, I mean finding one that way to kind of get started, I think, is a good idea. At least you can come up with a list of folks that have had some bit of experience. And then from there, as you bring them into your house – look, if it’s something like sill repair, there’s not a lot of material expenditure with that. So they shouldn’t be looking for a big down payment; you should be – maybe a progress payment along the way. But let’s face it, there’s not a lot of lumber expense when you’re just replacing sills.

    JOHN: It wasn’t so much in the past of getting ripped off, it was – I had to chase them because they take the money from my job and they would go and do one day here, then they’d go to another job.

    TOM: Yeah.

    JOHN: And then – you know what I mean?

    TOM: Well, we want to make sure that the money that they get from your job is based on them finishing your job. Alright? So I hope that helps you out. I would start with Angie’s List and go from there.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Jane in D.C. on the line who needs some help with an eco-friendly rug. Tell us what you’re looking for.

    JANE: I am in search of a type of rug or rugs that one can safely have installed in their home and it’s not toxic or as toxic as the present ones we have.

    TOM: Yeah. You know, it used to be that we look forward to that new-carpet smell, because it …

    JANE: Right, exactly. Exactly.

    TOM: Now we know that it’s bad for you. So, yeah, there are lines with all major manufacturers that are low-VOC products that have reduced those odors and made them safer for us to take inside our homes.

    The organization that creates standards for the carpet industry is called the Carpet and Rug Institute. And the Carpet and Rug Institute has an indoor air-quality testing program that is kind of like an ENERGY STAR sort of thing where you have a seal. It’s an icon that has a CRI inside a small, green house. And if you see that icon on the carpets, you know that it meets their standards for low emissions. And that’s something you can learn more about at the Carpet and Rug Institute website.

    But besides that, the other thing that you want to do is try to have the carpet delivered a day or two before it’s installed so that it can be unrolled outside and aired for a bit or perhaps in the garage or a place like that. That’s important. If there’s any gluing that has to be put down, you want to make sure that you use, also, low-VOC adhesives so you don’t have any adhesives that are contributing to the VOC problem in your house.

    And I think manufacturers like, I think, Shaw has made a name for themselves with environmentally-friendly carpets. Mohawk is another brand that I know has those types of carpets.

    LESLIE: And when it comes to padding, you might want to use the felt padding instead of any of the rubber padding that they might have.

    JANE: OK. What do you call that padding?

    LESLIE: Felt padding. It’s just a standard carpet padding. That, of course, cannot be used below-grade.

    But airing it out is very important. I remember when we were putting wall-to-wall carpeting in my son’s room when I was pregnant, we had the installer roll out the piece and keep it in his shop for days and days and days and days.

    JANE: I remember my mother used to air certain things out when they came back from the cleaners.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. Mm-hmm. That’s right. So you took the bags off and let them air out a bit.

    JANE: Exactly.

    TOM: Essentially, you’re going to do the same thing with the carpet. And I think that will make it …

    JANE: Yeah, that’s what I’m picking up from you. Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Yeah, it’ll be much more comfortable. That plus the fact that carpet today – if you search for the right time, the right kind with the CRI seal on it – is going to have less VOCs to begin with. OK, Jane?

    JANE: Oh, OK. Thank you so very much. I really appreciate this. I’ve been waiting and waiting to get this information.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Jane. 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 ahead, if you’ve got contractors coming to your home, make sure you check their insurance or you could be responsible for injuries or damage on your property, so stick around.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Trex, the world’s number-one, wood-alternative decking brand. Just in time to give your outdoor-living space a summer upgrade, Trex Enhance Decking is available, in stock, at your local Home Depot. To learn more about the long-lasting beauty, hassle-free maintenance and industry-leading warranty of Trex Enhance, visit HomeDepot.Trex.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 with your home improvement question. We are here to help you take the first step on that spring home improvement project.

    LESLIE: Tanya in North Carolina is on the line with a door question. Tell us what’s going on. You’ve got some rot in the framework?

    TANYA: The threshold, at the bottom, is coming up; I guess it’s rotten under there. It’s got to be taken out. And then about a foot up, on each side of that frame, it’s rotted out. So do I have to take out the whole frame and put a new one in or can I just cut that off and replace that at the bottom?

    TOM: OK. So, Tanya, I think you’re talking about – when you say “frame,” I think you’re talking about the door sill and the door jamb. Is that correct?

    TANYA: Right.

    TOM: Not the frame of the wall?

    TANYA: Yeah, whatever the door fits in, yeah.

    TOM: OK. So that’s the door sill and the door jambs. And the best way to replace the door is to cut the entire door out, including the sill and the jambs all the way around, and then install a prehung exterior door.

    So down in North Carolina, for example, you can go to a Lowe’s and buy a Benchmark Door by Therma-Tru. Good quality, fiberglass door, all prehung. Pretty easy and straightforward to install that. And you won’t have to worry about it rotting out because it’s fiberglass.

    TANYA: Oh, OK.

    TOM: You don’t try to repair the jamb or the sill that are heavily rotted like that; you just tear them out. The easy way to do that, by the way, is to remove the trim off of all sides. And a contractor would use a reciprocating saw to basically cut the nails between the trim and the frame of the house. And that door will pop out in like five minutes.

    TANYA: OK.

    TOM: I mean it’s really easy to get it out just with the right tools.

    TANYA: OK. Thank you.

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

    Well, as you plan your home improvement projects for spring, you might be planning to hire contractors to help get them done. If that’s the case, it’s really important that you make sure they’re properly insured because if you don’t, you could end up footing the bill in the event of an accident or renovation that’s gone bad.

    In many areas of the states, contractors that are sole proprietors – in other words, not incorporated – are not required by law to have liability insurance or workman’s comp, which is why it’s really important for you to get a proof-of-insurance certificate from them before the start of any home improvement project.

    If a contractor does not carry insurance, they should not be working on your house.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And if you think you’re already covered, think again. Homeowners insurance policies generally do not cover incidents involving uninsured or unlicensed contractors. Uninsured contractors also tend to be unfamiliar with local building codes and are usually unable to apply for permits.

    Now, when a project lacks the proper permits, a homeowner can be ordered to remove or repair the work that has already been completed.

    TOM: So, this spring, definitely make a note to check your contractor’s insurance before you allow them to do any work on your property.

    888-666-3974. Pick up the phone and give us – if you don’t know where to start with that big project, we would be happy to give you a few tips, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Tony in Virginia is on the line with some creaky stairs. Tell us what’s going on.

    TONY: Well, I’ve got a 55-year-old ranch house and this time, before we change the carpet, I’d like to try and get some of the creaks out of the stairs that go to the basement.

    TOM: OK.

    TONY: And on each step, I’ve put seven 2-inch screws where the – around where the finishing nails were. And then on the back plate, I put six screws. And some of the squeak is definitely better but they’re still very squeaky.

    TOM: So, what kind of staircase is it? Is it – do you know your stairs? Is this what’s called a “box stair,” where you have a wide stringer on the side of it that goes all the way down to the basement?

    TONY: Correct.

    TOM: And so can you get to that face? So could we screw through the stringer, into the edges of the treads?

    TONY: Boy, that would be tough because it’s a crawlspace. It’s possible but it would be almost heroic to get to that spot.

    TOM: OK, I hear you. So here is a way – and you’re going to carpet this, so we really don’t care how pretty this repair that I’m about to tell you to do is, because it’ll be covered by carpet.

    But where the treads go into the stringers, what you can do there is on a 45-degree angle, you can pilot first some small holes. And then drive the screws at an angle through the tread, catching as much of the tread meat as you dare and then going through the back of the tread and then into the stringer itself. Because probably where the tread pulls in and out of the stringer is where you’re getting most of your squeak. I’m going to imagine that what you screwed down right now is the attachment between the tread and the risers, because those are more accessible. But we want you to actually – to secure the tread into the stringers on both sides.

    So do that sort of by nailing – not nailing but screwing at a 45-degree angle, piloting first, but not with a big pilot. Just enough to kind of keep the screw straight. And that will pull the tread down into the stringer and hopefully lock it in place. That plus what you’ve already done, Tony, I think is the best that you can do. You know, wood stairs have a lot of parts to them and they do move as you walk up and down. They will squeak. But if you try to secure those loose treads before you carpet them, I think it’ll make a big difference, OK?

    TONY: Thank you very much.

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

    Up next, we’ve got tips to help you design a deck so your backyard can be an entertainment hotspot and the envy of the complete neighborhood.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Trex, the world’s number-one, wood-alternative decking brand. Just in time to give your outdoor-living space a summer upgrade, Trex Enhance Decking is available, in stock, at your local Home Depot. To learn more about the long-lasting beauty, hassle-free maintenance and industry-leading warranty of Trex Enhance, visit HomeDepot.Trex.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. And we are taking your calls at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    One lucky caller this hour is going to get a Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch from our friends over at Lutron. Now, it automatically senses when somebody walks into the room and it’s going to turn the lights on or off for you. And you are going to see your lighting bill drop right before your eyes.

    It’s worth $22 but you are going to save a ton of cash. And you can see all of Lutron’s green home products at LutronSensors.com. But pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your projects and your chance to win.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Mary in Maryland is on the line with wood-eating bees. Aaah!

    Mary, welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you?

    MARY: My porch is being attacked by wood bees and it has been under this attack for, actually, a couple years now.

    TOM: Right.

    MARY: And there’s sawdust on the floor and there’s holes in the ceiling. And I would like to know if there’s some way that I could get rid of them without actually killing them.

    TOM: Have you tried to ask nicely?

    MARY: I have. I really have. In fact, I even took some mosquito spray out and thought maybe if I just sprayed around the holes, they wouldn’t like that and would go away but …

    TOM: Yeah, well, unfortunately, the answer is no. What you’re talking about is carpenter bees. And once they find a place that they like, they will come back there over and over and over again because it’s very tasty.

    So, your options are to have them sprayed with an insecticide. They use a powdery insecticide that they spray into the holes that will permanently discourage them from coming back because it will kill them. But there’s nests in there and that’s what – that’s why they’re going in. They’re drilling those holes to go in and lay eggs, so they’re going to keep coming back.

    The other thing to think about doing is if you want to do some construction work – because you can change the wood areas of the – that they’re eating to a composite material, like AZEK. I did that on a garage that we have on our property. It looks like wood; it looks like sort of that white pine trim that we see around but it’s a composite. It’s made out of CPC, the same kind of plastic that plumbing pipes are made out of. But it’s got air cells in it, so it really cuts and looks like wood. You can even paint it.

    And once I did that, it was funny. The carpenter bees kept going back to it because they thought it was wood, too. But I can imagine they’re thinking, “Looks like wood. Doesn’t taste like wood.” And once they figured out that it wasn’t wood, they never came back again.

    MARY: Oh, wow. Well, that’s a good thing.

    TOM: Alright? So check it out online. It’s AZEK – A-Z-E-K – .com. And thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, have you ever flipped through a home magazine and seen those beautiful designer decks? You know, the ones that are multi-leveled with built-in seating and really gorgeous colors. Well, it might sound like an out-of-reach dream but before you write it off, consider that a deck can be a really sound investment. It’s extremely cost-effective, especially when you consider that the alternative way to add to your living space is with an addition.

    Now, with a deck, you’re going to get that extra square footage with a lot less cash.

    TOM: And when you’re thinking about this deck, first you want to consider the basics, like the size, the shape, the color and the railing style. But then also consider elements like built-in seating, as well as an extra feature or two, like a bar, a pergola, a gazebo or even a built-in spa.

    LESLIE: And when it comes to choosing materials, consider composites like Trex Enhance. Trex Enhance is in stock, right now, at The Home Depot and they’re a sponsor of our program. Now, it comes in a really beautiful color called Beach Dune, which is a warm, honey-brown hue that really compliments pretty much any exterior.

    With beauty that’s engineered, it’s going to endure. Trex Enhance offers a deeper, more natural-looking wood-grain appearance and a low-sheen luster.

    TOM: Now, if you’d like to enhance that with a custom look, you could consider Trex Enhance in Beach Dune and mixing it with a Trex railing, which comes in a variety of colors. If you put it all together, you can also use the Trex hidden fasteners, which are kind of cool because these give you a smooth and seamless deck surface, so you don’t see the nails or any other types of visible fasteners. All you see is the beautiful decking.

    And as a finishing touch, think about incorporating some deck lighting into that design. Then all you need to add is the comfy outdoor furniture and you will be good to go for the ultimate outdoor oasis.

    If you want more ways to make your deck dream a reality, check out HomeDepot.Trex.com. They’ve got lots of ideas right there and you’ll be able to get started on that project this spring.

    LESLIE: Anthony in Florida is dealing with some algae on a condensation drain. Tell us about it. Where is this drain?

    ANTHONY: The drain itself – which is unusual, to my knowledge – runs down to the intake of the actual air conditioner itself, to the condenser and runs down through the foundation. And to me, it drops straight down to the main drain, because I took a wire snake – it’s just about the only thing I could get down there – and it dropped about 12 feet, so …

    TOM: Wow.

    ANTHONY: Yeah. Yeah, it took about 12 feet of that wire. Didn’t feel like it ran around any corners. Then again, it’s PEX pipe, so it may have just snaked through a curved S or whatnot down to the main drain.

    TOM: OK. So it goes from the air handler down through the floor below? Is that what it’s doing?

    ANTHONY: Yes, it does. Through the concrete foundation, yes.

    TOM: Through the floor below and into the concrete foundation. Well, it’s probably just – it sounds like it’s – you don’t know where it pops out anywhere, do you?

    ANTHONY: No, it does not pop out anywhere.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s probably just dropping into the soil under the house; that’s what it sounds like they did to it.

    So what’s your question?

    ANTHONY: My question is – I managed to free up the drain tube, because I had a lot of water in my receiver. It was insane. I managed to clear that by using that wire snake and then – I wanted to know, is there an enzyme that you can put that will prevent that from happening again or is that just something I have to check every six months, say?

    TOM: Yeah, I don’t think you’re going to want to treat your condensate water, which is what you’re suggesting. If this becomes an ongoing problem, I might think about a way to reroute that, perhaps add a condensate pump and have the condensation pumped elsewhere so it doesn’t gravity-drain. You could pump it up and drop it somewhere else that makes sense based on the configuration of your house. It could be up in the attic, across and out. It could be down into a floor, across and out. It could be into another drain somewhere else in the house. But if it became a real ongoing problem, I’d consider rerouting it so that you could maintain it properly.

    ANTHONY: OK. Well, I appreciate it.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Anthony. Good luck with that project and 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 ahead, turn any room in your house into a sunny cottage retreat, with a can of paint. We’re going to tell you how, after this.

    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 can visit MoneyPit.com right now and check out our brand-new gallery on the home page. It’s called “Roof Checkup.” We’re going to give you the step-by-step advice on how to check the valleys, the ridges, the shingles for all that wear and tear so you can spot those potential roof-leak areas before they happen. It’s on the home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: And while you’re online, you can post your question in the Community section, just like Dorothy from Georgia did. And she writes: “Is it necessary to remove the wood shingles before getting the house sided or can insulation and siding be put right over the existing shingles? Our house is 50 years old.”

    TOM: When you buy vinyl siding, they often sell you that very thin, Styrofoam backer on the vinyl. But frankly, it really doesn’t add very much insulating power at all. You know what? I think the bigger effect is it tends to make the vinyl lay a little flatter, look a little more – a little stiffer, a little bit more like real clapboard.

    Because, sometimes, when you have just the regular vinyl, do you ever notice, Leslie, it kind of sinks in a little bit? It indents because it’s just so flexible? So when you put the backer or the foam on it, it looks a lot stiffer and crisper. So, I think that’s a benefit of using the insulation backer on the vinyl.

    But you don’t really need it to add insulation to your home. In terms of putting it on top of the wood siding, yeah, you can do that. There’s a limit to that because the more siding you add on top, the deeper the windows become from the surface of the siding back. So, sometimes, you have to actually extend the window jambs out, extend the window trim out so it looks sort of normal.

    Because you don’t want the siding to stick out further than the trim on the windows. It looks weird, it looks unprofessional. It’s not going to add value to your house and you’re just not going to be happy with the project after it’s done. So, if that’s what it’s going to take, you’re going to have to extend all the trim. You can compare the cost of that against the cost of ripping off the siding and going down to the sheathing, which is the way it really is intended to be installed.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post from Margaret in West Virginia who wrote: “I have a laminate kitchen countertop that’s 18 years old and starting to show wear. Also, there’s a seam where the top joins that’s not matching up very well. I’m considering having it refinished. Is this a good idea?”

    TOM: You know, if you want an inexpensive refinish, what about the countertop paint?

    LESLIE: I mean the paint’s a great option. I think Rust-Oleum has a laminate countertop painting kit that’s going to hide all of those flaws. It does take – I’m going to warn you, it takes several days. There are a couple of steps that complete this process. So you have to make sure that you don’t plan on using that counter or need that kitchen back the next day, because it is several steps. But it comes in a bunch of solid colors. I think they even do like a faux granite look. But the solid colors are great and it really makes a great change.

    TOM: Well, if you like a beach-y cottage feel, Leslie has got a great way to transform any room into a summer cottage with just a can of paint, in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. You can give any room cottage style by just putting a paintbrush to the wall and creating a faux-plank look with paint. And you can use just about any color you like for this project.

    Now, if you’re going for a beach-y cottage look, try ocean hues. Or if it’s more of a woodland or country cottage, you can use greens or earth tones. Think of it as a log cabin or a clapboard look.

    Now, you want to space your horizontal stripes about 6 to 10 inches apart, using the room’s scale as your guide, because that’s really going to set how large or how wide you make these planks look. The most important tools for getting this project right is a roll of good-quality painter’s tape and a level. Super-important.

    You want to mark off paint lines first. And be diligent in your prep work because that’s going to make sure you have a beautiful, finished project. Then you can go ahead and finish the look with country- or beach-themed accessories and you’ve got cottage style in no-time flat.

    TOM: What a beautiful project and an easy thing to tackle this weekend.

    You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up next time on The Money Pit, we’re going to teach you how to hire a landscaper. We’re going to give you the dirt on how to find a pro that can deliver what is promised for the price you agreed on. That’s all coming up next on 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 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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