Insulation Tips to Help Cut Heating and Cooling Costs, How to Make Use of Empty Nest Space, Fall Chores to do Now 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: We are here to help you with your home improvement projects on this first weekend of the fall season, officially. We call this the Goldilocks season because it’s not too hot, it’s not too cold; it’s just right to tackle all sorts of projects. Whether it’s a project inside your house, outside your house or maybe you are going to help a neighbor with their house, pick up the phone and call us because we will help you get started at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    If there’s a project that needs to get done around your house this fall, let’s talk about it. We’ll give you some tips on what materials you need; how to make the best choices; how to pick the best projects; how to get it done once, get it done right so, hey, you won’t have to do it again, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on this hour of the program, are you hoping to keep your heating bills down this winter? Well, adding extra insulation is the way to make sure that happens. And now is the time, so we’ve got smart insulation solutions with money-saving results for you, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And whether you’re an empty-nester or perhaps just have some unused space in your home, we’ve got creative ideas for putting that extra square-footage to good use.

    TOM: Plus, get some advice on easy fall chores to help spruce up the outside of your house just in time for winter.

    LESLIE: And one lucky caller is going to win 40 square feet of Timberchic. It’s a peel-and-stick version of actual salvaged wood and you can really do some great decorating with these planks.

    It’s a prize worth $480, so give us a call, right now, for your chance to win, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Heading out to Iowa where Andrew has got a question about a wood floor. Tell us what you’re working on.

    ANDREW: My fiancée and I just sanded our floors and we are getting ready to put down some product on our floor. And I just wanted to know what kind of product I should be using. It’s probably an oak floor.

    TOM: That’s a great project, Andrew. There are choices to be made now. Did you have a finish on this floor before?

    ANDREW: It did. It was a reddish tint.

    TOM: OK.

    ANDREW: So it’s still showing through a little bit. We didn’t take it all the way down to bare wood.

    TOM: What did you use to sand it with?

    ANDREW: It was a machine that had – it was like a giant hand-sander, basically. It had a handle on it and a big sheet of sandpaper on it. It took down the old varnish that was on it.

    TOM: OK. So was it a belt sander where the big, white belt spins around or was it more of sort of like a vibrating sander?

    ANDREW: It was a vibrating sander.

    TOM: Alright. So here’s the thing. This floor was stained before and I’m concerned that if you just put a clear finish on it – if you’re happy with the look of the floor, right now, with a little bit of the red showing through, then you can just put a clear finish on it. But if you’re not, it gets a little bit tricky because to try to add more of that color in, it’s hard to get the exact same color. And you would almost probably have to go a couple of steps darker. And then you may have some issues about some areas have more of the old varnish on it than other areas and they’re going to absorb differently.

    So, it’s a little more difficult to refinish a floor like you’ve done if it had stain on it. Now, if it didn’t have stain on it and you’re just sort of sanding off the varnish and you’re putting a fresh coat of varnish, you don’t have the issue.

    The issue that you might have is, because it was stained before, you might have some of that blotchy color coming through. If you have stain on a floor, generally, you can’t use that type of approach to sand it. You have to use the belt-sander approach, which is a big machine with a very wide belt that you should not do yourself. Because if you sneeze while using this thing, you’ll just ruin the floor. It’s a very hard machine to use as a do-it-yourselfer. It’s really something a pro has to use all the time.

    So the first question you have to kind of ask yourselves is: are you happy with the look of the floor? If you reseal it and finish it just like it is, if that’s going to work for you guys. And if it is, what I would do is I would put on at least three coats of oil-based polyurethane or solid, solvent-based polyurethane. Do not use the water-based products – the acrylic-based products – because they’re just not durable enough. They’re great on doors and trim and furniture but on floors, I would always use the oil-based product.

    Now, you apply it, not with a brush but with something called a “lambswool applicator.” And basically, it’s kind of like a mop on a stick. And you dip – so dip it into a tray of this urethane, then you sort of mop it on and work your way out of the room and then find something else to do for at least a half a day, maybe even longer to let it dry really, really well. If it’s the least bit tacky, do not put second coats on it. This may take a couple of days, depending on the humidity level. Wait until it’s really, super dry.

    If you try to recoat it and it’s still tacky, it has even a harder time drying the next time around. So make sure it’s super dry before you put the next coat on. And about three coats of that, try to stay off of it as much as you can for the first month or so. And by that, I mean don’t drag the furniture around, put some pieces of carpet or something underneath the legs. Just try and treat it gingerly because it does take a while for it to really, really harden. And you’ll be good to go.

    ANDREW: Great. Well, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Pam in Florida has a porch question. How can we help you today?

    PAM: We live on the water and in Florida, there’s a lot of wind on the water. We’re close to the Gulf of Mexico. And we have a screened porch with aluminum railings and the wind keeps blowing the screen sections out. We’ve tried all different types of screens and double-screening them and all different types of splines. And I wondered if you had any better ideas for us.

    TOM: Are we talking about on doors or windows?

    PAM: We’re talking about screen sections on a screened porch.

    TOM: Screened porch. OK. And so, how big are these sections?

    PAM: Probably 4×6.

    TOM: Pretty big. Are you using vinyl screening or are you using metal screening?

    PAM: Vinyl.

    TOM: Yeah, I think that’s the issue. The vinyl screening is pretty soft and pretty flexible. Not very sturdy. I think you’re going to need to use a heavier-gauge screening in order to make this more permanent. And you’re also going to need to consider not only the attachment points – I’m not quite sure how you’re doing that – but it’s got to be super secure. And you might want to add grilles to divide that up into a bit smaller space. It could be a thin grille but it could – but a grille would give it some additional strength.

    So I think you’re going to need to use much heavier screening and not vinyl screening, OK? Because I think putting on a double layer of the vinyl is going to really not get you where you need to be. It really should be heavy-metal screening when it’s that – when it’s a 4×6-foot area.

    PAM: Right. Do you know if metal screening comes in a fine enough mesh to keep no-see-ums out?

    TOM: Oh, yeah. It comes in different mesh densities and different gauge metals. You’ve just got to find a good source or supply down there for it.

    PAM: Thank you very much. Appreciate the help.

    TOM: You’re very welcome.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at Give us a call, we are here to lend a hand to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Just give a call at that magic number, 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, with fall here, now is the time to make sure you’ve not only got enough insulation but the right type to really cut those heating costs. We’ll have tips on insulation options to help you choose the best for your home, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And hey, is there a room in your house that’s totally out of date? Well, one caller we talk to on the air this hour is going to get the ability to transform that space with today’s prize. It’s 40 square feet of Timberchic.

    LESLIE: Yeah. You know, Timberchic is a natural, salvaged-wood veneer product. It attaches really easily and securely to pretty much any wall. And the wood is formaldehyde- and chemical-free. And it’s got 3M adhesive backing, which makes sure the installation is easy and it’s going to stick.

    TOM: It’s a prize worth $480. Going out to one caller drawn at random from those that reach us for today’s show. So pick up the phone and give us a call, right now, for the answer to your home improvement question and your chance to win at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: James in Ohio is on the line with a heating question. What can we do for you today?

    JAMES: Yeah, hi. I was calling in – I have an older home built in 1968. And I was wondering if it’d be easier to install an electric furnace, instead of having the baseboard heat or possibly getting an – one of the outdoor units that mount high on your wall.

    TOM: Do you have natural gas or propane or oil in your area?

    JAMES: Maybe natural gas?

    TOM: Yeah, that would be the way to go. If you’re going through the trouble of putting a furnace in, I would definitely not put in an electric furnace because that is the most expensive way to provide heat to your house. I would suggest a high-efficiency, natural-gas furnace. The installation expense is going to be similar if you’re putting a new furnace in but the ongoing cost to run it will be a lot lower.

    JAMES: Will I incur more cost because – for the ductwork? Because I have plaster walls instead of drywall.

    TOM: Well, if you’re going to put an electric furnace in, you’re going to have to do the ductwork anyway. So, the ductwork is there whether or not you use an electric furnace or a gas furnace. And it really depends on how creative your HVAC contractor is but that’s a fixed cost. If you’re going through the trouble of ducting out your house, which is going to add to its value, I definitely would recommend gas.

    And typically, the gas companies don’t charge to bring gas up to your house. So they’ll bring the line up and put a meter in because now you’re going to be their customer forever and they’re very happy about that.

    JAMES: OK. Well, I thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Nancy in Pennsylvania is on the line with a question about asbestos. How can we help you today?

    NANCY: I live in a home that was built in the mid-1950s. And on the ceiling, there are 1×1 square ceiling tiles. And I would like to take those off and just have a smooth ceiling put up. But I see on all these home improvement shows where they get into pulling things out of older houses and some of the things have asbestos in them. And I’m wondering how you tell that.

    TOM: Asbestos can’t be visually identified; it has to be tested. And what you could potentially do is take a sample of one of those ceiling tiles and send it to an asbestos testing lab and have it identified.

    NANCY: How do you find an asbestos testing lab?

    LESLIE: You can buy kits at any sort of major home center. I know Home Depot carries one. I think that one of the main brands that you can find in stores is PRO-LAB. And then you send a piece of whatever you’re concerned about to this company and they run a test and get it back to you with whatever their findings are.

    Now, the issue with asbestos is that it’s so lightweight that if it becomes particulate, if it breaks up and gets into the air, I mean it takes almost a full day for it ever to reach to the ground. So that’s why there is such a concern when there is asbestos present. But most likely, your ceiling tiles are hopefully fine.

    TOM: Yeah, they’re probably just a fiber tile, which we saw millions of these used in the 50s. But if you’re concerned, that would be the way to do it: to send a sample to an asbestos-testing lab. You can use one that’s available in retail or if you just Google “asbestos testing lab,” you’ll find these all over the country. Find a good one, slip a piece in a plastic bag, send it off and they’ll read it for you.

    NANCY: OK, great. I didn’t know they existed.

    TOM: Well, as the temperatures begin to dip, your heating costs will soon be on the rise. And there’s no better way to keep your home warmer and keep those costs down than to add insulation to your home.

    LESLIE: It’s true. Insulation is your home’s year-round armor against high heating and cooling costs while preserving comfort, moisture control and an improved indoor environment.

    TOM: And you can add to existing insulation, if you’d like to improve your energy efficiency, without removing any of the insulation that’s already there. And that’s really one of the easiest ways to get a warmer, cozier home and bring it up to a reasonable efficiency level pretty quickly.

    LESLIE: And the quality of your home’s insulation is also important since it impacts every other energy-saving improvement that you’re going to tackle. So, choosing the right insulation should be a careful consideration and that’s why we’ve partnered with Icynene to create The Money Pit Guide to Insulation.

    TOM: Yep. A brand-new e-book, The Money Pit Guide to Insulation, delivers tips to help you make smart insulation and ceiling choices now for comprehensive, energy-saving results that will last for years to come. Visit to download The Money Pit Guide to Insulation, presented by Icynene, and get your insulation project started off right.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Chuck in Delaware on the line whose kids dropped something in the bathtub, which caused a huge crack and now a leak. What is going on?

    CHUCK: They dropped a shave-cream can into the bottom of the tub. It put a semicircle crack in it. And I’m wondering if there’s anything that I can use to stop this from – when they step on it, it leaks.

    TOM: Yeah. Look, you can repair it. It’s not going to be pretty but you can repair it. And you said it’s a fiberglass tub?

    CHUCK: Yes.

    TOM: So, you could pick up a fiberglass repair kit. They’re available from a number of manufacturers. Two that you would know would be Bondo, which makes a lot of fiberglass products. They’re big in industry, they’re big in auto body. And then, of course, there’s Elmer’s. They have a tub-and-shower repair kit, as well. But I would probably get the Bondo kit and you could put a fiberglass patch on there.

    But the color on it is – it’s always going to show; it means you’re going to see it. But you can repair it structurally so it won’t leak, because they need to be able to step on it without it bending and cracking. And if you repair it with Bondo, you’re going to basically apply the resin, you’re going to press fiberglass into it and then apply additional resin to make it strong.

    CHUCK: Alright. Well, I appreciate your help.

    TOM: Alright. Well, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us, Chuck, at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Bonnie in California. Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    BONNIE: We have a condo that we’ve – it’s been rented for 12 years. And when our renters moved out, we were going to sell it. And we saw stains on the carpet and we thought, “Well, we’ll pull up the carpet, replace it and just paint and clean up and put it up for sale.”

    TOM: Right.

    BONNIE: Well, when we pulled the carpet back, the cement slab – it’s a cement slab, single-level condo, 1,600 – almost 1,700 square feet with a cement-slab floor. And when we pulled back the carpet, we found that it was very damp and there was that white, fuzzy kind of effervescence or whatever they call it that comes up from the cement.

    TOM: Efflorescence. Mm-hmm.

    BONNIE: Lots of that. We tore up all the flooring and thought, “Well, we’ll go ahead and hire a contractor and have it all fixed and put new stuff down.” And it didn’t dry out; it just was damp.

    But in any case, this problem is not getting solved. We have – we don’t know where to go from here. We want to figure out if there’s some way to seal that floor that is going to keep it from, you know, ruining the carpet and wood again and get it for sale. But fix it so that it’s – so that we can say it’s fixed.

    TOM: Alright. Well, here’s what I think is going on, based on your description. If you’ve got that much of a water source that close to the concrete slab – concrete is very hydroscopic. I mean it will really absorb water like crazy. And so if the ground outside is saturated, that is clearly drawing through the concrete into the interior and that’s why the floor has been so wet. My concern is that this could develop, if it hasn’t already, into a mold problem.

    The bad news for the condominium association is that if they’re responsible for the structure of this building, which would include the floor, this is their problem to fix, not your problem to fix. And if I was advising them, I would tell them to stop calling contractors to check leaking ponds and start calling professional engineers that can analyze the building and figure out exactly what’s going on and prescribe the proper fix. They’ve got to think big here, not think small. Because I think they have a lot of liability, because it’s probably not you; you just happen to be the one that found it. But if your neighbors start pulling up carpet, they’re going to probably find the same thing.

    All that you can do on the inside is really stop-gap. You can clean up the efflorescence, you can put a masonry sealer on the floor. But the problem is that that concrete is going to continue to get wet, continue to get damp and eventually it’s going to pull back into the unit. So, I think that you need to have a very serious sit-down with that condominium association.

    BONNIE: Mm-hmm. OK.

    TOM: Alright? Good luck, Bonnie.

    BONNIE: Thank you very much.

    TOM: Thank you for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Joseph on the line with an electrical question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    JOSEPH: I’ve got an older house. It was built in the 1940s and my daughter’s nursery, the overhead fan and lights work but none of the sockets in the room function. And I have no breakers that have tripped.

    TOM: So somewhere, those sockets are disconnected. Now, are you sure the sockets are not connected to a light switch?

    JOSEPH: I am 99-percent positive, sir.

    TOM: There’s a seed of a doubt there that perhaps they could be. Sometimes the light – the outlets are operated by a light switch. But I would say that it’s not normal for that to happen in a 1940s house.

    But what you need to do is this – and when I say “you need to do,” more accurately an electrician needs to do. You’ve got to get into the wiring that’s supplying those outlets and try to figure out why it’s disconnected. I can’t imagine a reason it would have been physically disconnected, which means it’s most likely some failure in the wiring of the outlets themselves. But if you open up the outlets, you can see if you have hot wires there and try to figure out at what point they became de-energized. Because they are probably wired in series, so the wiring goes from one to the next to the next. And you need to do a little bit more investigation to figure out why that is.

    But it’s really not a do-it-yourself project. I don’t want you to make a mistake and I don’t want you to get electrocuted.

    JOSEPH: Yes, sir. Then I will definitely look at calling an electrician.

    LESLIE: Alright. Thanks so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Still ahead on the program, it is the perfect time of year for those final outdoor projects. We’re going to tell you why exterior cleanup is super important to tackle before the winter hits, when The Money Pit continues 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: Well, it’s one of our favorite times of the year here at The Money Pit. It’s the Goldilocks season. What? Never heard of it? Well, it’s not too hot, it’s not too cold; it’s just right. It’s just the right time to take on dozens of projects around your house.

    LESLIE: Yeah, one of them is cleaning up the exterior of your home. And if this is one chore you’d rather forget doing, well, we can help you with that. Please welcome Scott Dudjak to the program, owner of Spray & Forget.

    Welcome, Scott.

    SCOTT: Hi. Thank you for having me.

    TOM: So, Scott, tell us about Spray & Forget for those that are unfamiliar with it. This is a really good time to use this product to clean up a lot of the staining that we see, for example, on our roofs and other exterior surfaces, right?

    SCOTT: Yeah, that’s correct. Yes, Spray & Forget is an exterior cleaner. It removes any kind of stains caused by mold, mildew or algae. And you basically apply it and you don’t have to rinse it. Thus, the name Spray & Forget.

    LESLIE: And you recommend applying it now? It’ll stand up all winter long and present you with beautiful surfaces once the snow melts and spring is here?

    SCOTT: Yeah, it’s a great time to apply it. I mean you can apply it any time of the year but now is a great time. We’re starting to get to the end of the season, going into the winter season, so applying it now will get that home clean and be ready to go when spring rolls around again.

    TOM: You guys have been at this a long time. I know that you started the product in 2002. And that was well before any of the cleaners – most of the cleaners, I guess, that we see today for exterior – ever really existed. So, over those years, what have you seen happen to the market?

    SCOTT: Yeah, that’s a great question. So, the market’s changed quite a bit. You’re seeing a lot of people looking for more eco-friendly products like Spray & Forget. We’re seeing a lot more people looking for bleach-free products like Spray & Forget. And we’re seeing a lot more people looking for products that provide – that are easy to use, single application and long-lasting types of products.

    LESLIE: Well, you bring up a good point, Scott. You’re saying that it’s bleach-free and it’s eco-friendly. So, when I’m using Spray & Forget, do I need to wet down the bushes around the perimeter of my home or cover anything up?

    SCOTT: Yes and no. So, there is a little bit of ethyl alcohol in our product so that it can stay in liquid form when we’re applying it. And so, that may or may not have some effect on some sensitive bushes or flowering plants. Usually, it won’t. But as a precaution, what we say to do is always just wet down that landscaping before and after you apply. And then you’ll never have any issues.

    And the question after that that usually comes up is: what about if it rains the next day and it washes the product down a gutter or down the side of the building and into my flower bed? Well, at that point, it’s not going to do any harm whatsoever because at that point, that ethyl alcohol is gone and you don’t have to worry about anything.

    TOM: We’re talking to Scott Dudjak from Spray & Forget.

    So, Scott, when you apply this product and you sort of walk away and leave it alone and forget about it, does it have sort of a residual cleaning effect to it?

    SCOTT: It does. Yeah, our product is a cleaner and a preventive in one. And part of the way that we can do that is that it has a really excellent residual to it. And basically, it depends on the surface you’re applying it to but you’re going to get, on a vertical surface like a brick wall or a stucco wall, you’re going to get 12 to 24 months before you start seeing any staining coming back at all. And on a flat surface like a driveway, you’ll get the same amount of time, as well. And on a roof, you’ll get up to 3 to 5 years before those stains come back.

    TOM: That’s fantastic. Love a product that you can just apply and walk away from and it just does its job. Spray & Forget, it just works. Give it a shot, folks. You can learn more at That’s

    Scott Dudjak, thank you so much for stopping by the program.

    SCOTT: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Alright. And still to come, are you feeling a little blue about your empty nest? Well, we’ve got ideas to turn that empty space into a place you can enjoy and chase those blues away. Tips on how you can do that, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, looking to beat the cold-weather blues this winter? Well, look no further than an indoor container garden. This is a really favorite project of mine. It’s a very easy way to add a dash of green to pretty much every room in your house. We’ve got a great article on what to grow and where to grow it on the home page, right now, at

    LESLIE: Julie in Colorado is on the line and has a heating question.

    JULIE: My question is regarding heat pumps and how energy-efficient they might be, because we’re an all-electric house. Our electric bill is very high.

    TOM: And how is your house heated right now, Julie?

    JULIE: It’s heated with baseboard. And actually, we don’t even really heat our house. We’ll heat one room because it’s so expensive.

    TOM: Right now, you’re heating with electric-resistance heat which, as you accurately stated, is the most expensive type of heat. Now, a heat-pump system would be far less expensive but it would require a duct system to be installed throughout the house. So, you would have that upfront cost of running the heating ducts.

    If you had that system installed – the way a heat pump works is it’s kind of like an air-conditioning system that runs all winter except that in the wintertime, the refrigeration system is reversed. Now, if you’ve ever walked, say, by a window air conditioner in the summer, you know it blows hot air out the back of it, out to the outside. If you sort of took that window air conditioner out and flipped it around and stuck it inside, you’d have a heat pump; it’d be blowing the hot air in the house. That’s essentially what happens: it reverses the refrigeration cycle in the wintertime.

    Now, generally speaking, heat pumps are not always recommended for very, very cold climates, because heat pumps only maintain the heat when there’s a 2-degree differentiation between what the temperature is set at – what the temperature is and what the temperature is set at, I should say. So if you set your temperature at 70, it falls to 69, the heat goes on. If it falls inside to 68, the heat pump stays on. If it falls to 67, the heat pump says to its electric-resistance backup system, which is always part of a heat pump, “Hey, I can’t keep up with this. I need some help. Turn on the heating coils.” And then you’re not saving any money.

    So, will it save – will it be less expensive than baseboard electric? Yes. But it has a significant upfront cost in terms of the installation because you’d need a duct system, as well as the heat-pump equipment. Does that make sense?

    JULIE: OK. Sounds good. Thank you.

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

    Well, whether it’s the day you’ve been dreaming of or the one you’ve always dreaded, fall brings lots of empty nests for adults sending kids off to college.

    LESLIE: Or perhaps you’re on the opposite end of the timeline: still growing into that big, new family home? Well, either way, you’ve got some unused space in your home that you’d really like to take better advantage of.

    TOM: Yep. Let’s say you’ve got an extra bedroom. Well, that could become a really fantastic home office, you could use it as a craft room or even a home gym and you could still preserve its ability to maybe serve as a guest bedroom just by adding a small bed or a pullout sofa in that same space. And if the kids do return home, you can convert those rooms back to bedrooms. It’s really not a very difficult project.

    LESLIE: But if your children have left the nest for good, you can go ahead and get really creative. You know, a home spa is not only going to add luxury but like all bathroom upgrades, it delivers a great return on investment. You can mimic your favorite hotel spa or bathroom with soothing colors, great linens and fancy towels.

    TOM: Or you can give your grown kids a good reason to come and visit with a game room or one of my favorites: a man cave. Who says a man cave has to be below grade, right? Make it above grade. Use that spare bedroom. Just add a big-screen TV, a wet bar, an air-hockey or pool table. And there are also smaller versions if you’re short on space.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But please soundproof those walls so we don’t have to hear the TV all night long, please.

    TOM: That’s true. Man cave or kids, still need quiet rooms.

    888-666-3974. Let’s get back to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

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

    TERRY: I’ve recently laid blacktop down probably about two years ago. Now, I’m starting to get some cracks in there. And some of them might be at least a ½-inch wide to ¼-inch. And I’m curious if you have a new product you’re aware of, that was rated highly, to use now to fill cracks with on blacktop?

    TOM: Well, it’s interesting that the driveway was only two years old and it’s already forming cracks. That can mean one thing and one thing only, Terry, and that is that it wasn’t put down very well to begin with. Perhaps the base wasn’t as solid as it should have been. Is this a project that you had a contractor do for you?

    TERRY: Yes. And you’re absolutely right. What happened – I didn’t get the 3 inches I was guaranteed to get. And I drive a semi and in the wintertime, I’ll back my semi up there to plug it in due to the cold weather. I live in Wisconsin.

    TOM: Right.

    TERRY: And I got off on the edge a little bit and it pushed it down.

    TOM: OK. So, what you want to do is use a latex asphalt crack filler. And then also use a latex topcoat sealer. The latex products today, the formulation is pretty good and they’re a lot easier to work with. But don’t use the sealer on the cracks until you put the crack filler in first. The crack filler has some depth to it, so it can fill up those voids – those ½-inch voids – that you described. Then after you apply the crack filler and seal those cracks up – because, remember, what the purpose of the crack filler is really is to just keep the water out of it and keep it flush so the water doesn’t get in and freeze and make it worse.

    So use the crack filler first and then put a coat of latex sealer on the whole thing. I would just buy one of the squeegees on – with one side, the broom on the other. Kind of application tools. Start on one end, go to the other and then stay off it for a couple of days.

    TERRY: Well, thank you very much. I appreciate your kindness in answering my phone call.

    LESLIE: Ron in Florida is on the line with a leaky water heater. What’s going on? Tell us how old it is.

    RON: Well, the breaker had thrown a couple times and I turned it back on. And (inaudible at 0:30:16) stayed when I turned it on. And then I’d gone in, took a nap, came back out. When I did, the entire garage was full of water. I guess the pressure-relief valve that’s up top was just – it was just spewing out water extremely, extremely hot. Hotter than we’ve ever experienced having our – what I thought it was. It just continued to heat.

    And so, at any rate, I turned the breaker off. I looked in the panel where the thermostats were and the elements and they were just fried; they were burnt. They were burned up. I got a good scare because the insulation was blackened and could have been worse than it was, I guess, it catching fire. But I just wondered what would have made the hot-water heater do that.

    TOM: OK. Well, let’s see. The pressure/temperature relief valve, which is what that’s called on the side of the water heater, is set to go off at about 150 pounds of pressure. And theoretically, the way it works is if the water heater doesn’t shut off, because there’s something wrong with the control circuit, it will continue to heat and heat and heat and build up pressure to the point where to prevent the tank from rupturing, the pressure/temperature valve will open up.

    Now, I will say this: very often, those valves fail and they will open up way before they’re designed to open up. And if that’s the case, you just replace the valve. But it sounds to me like this thing got so wet that the water got on the elements and that’s what caused a short, which caused the breaker to trip.

    LESLIE: Yeah. But is this associated with an age of a water heater or is this just a random, fluke problem?

    TOM: Not really. I’ve seen new pressure/temperature valves that can pop open, as well. And sometimes, you get a little bit of debris that’s stuck under them, too, when you try to close them and that makes it even worse.

    Now, where are we at right now with the water heater? You’re still there with it or have you replaced it? What’s your – where are you at with the project?

    RON: Just the – what I was looking at didn’t look like it was even worth fixing with all the – like I said, with all the burned …

    TOM: Well, it may not. If it’s more than a few years old and you’ve got that much going on with it, I’d probably replace the water heater myself.

    But what I was going to say, the one thing that you can try – and assuming that the coils were still OK. You mentioned they were burned out. Burned out is – with a coil, it’s kind of hard to do. If they just got wet and shorted, that’s a different situation. You can clean out the contacts and it’ll work. But if the coils were OK, otherwise, what you could do is you open and close the pressure-and-temperature valve several times.

    And by the way, there’s supposed to be a discharge pipe on that that stops within 6 inches of the floor. And sometimes, the plumbers don’t put that on. But if you open and close that a bunch of times to try to sort of clean out that valve, sometimes it’ll reseat itself. And this is assuming that it didn’t open because there is something electrically wrong with it. But I would do that.

    There’s things that I would check but there’s – these are things you probably couldn’t check. For example, I’d check the amperage on the coils to see if they were drawing normally and things like that that tells me sort of – the circuit is working correctly. So, I guess what we’re coming to here is if you’ve got this much going on with – you’re probably going to have to replace it and you’re going to need a plumber for that, anyway.

    But that’s probably what happened. It probably started with the pressure/temperature valve leaking, that water getting in there and causing a big mess electrically. Because water and electricity do not mix, as you have learned, my friend.

    RON: Right, right. OK. OK, guys. Well, listen, I really appreciate you taking my call and appreciate the help.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, thank you so much for calling The Money Pit.

    Up next, could your house use a little more shine? Get in on the design trend that’s making a big comeback: lacquer. We’re going to tell you how, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: We are here to help you with your home improvement projects. You can call us at 888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your question to the Community section at, like Brandy did.

    LESLIE: Alright. Brandy writes: “Are all wood cabinets worth the extra cost compared to wood fronts and MDF for the box?”

    TOM: Well, I’d say the answer is: it depends. I mean you can get very good-quality cabinets with MDF – which, by the way, is medium-density fiberboard – for the boxes and they can last a really long time. Your best bet is to shop cabinet quality over materials. Now, I wouldn’t discount the cabinets just because the box is MDF.

    There are several types, all with their own price points. The custom cabinets are, of course, the most expensive. These are good for kitchens where you really have to be careful with the fit. Maybe you’ve got some odd configuration options, you can’t use traditionally-sized cabinets. Semi-custom are also good for those with sort of more discriminating tastes and deeper pockets. But any style, configuration or finish, as long as it’s in the manufacturer’s catalog, is a great option.

    Those stock cabinets are also good for tight budgets and fast turnarounds. I once built an entire kitchen in a house that was owned by our local Boy Scout council for about $2,000 of materials all in: cabinets, countertops, everything. So, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get a great look and functional kitchen.

    LESLIE: Yeah, you do have to be willing, though, to do a little bit more of the work yourself. You know, like Tom said, some of them are going to require assembly and that’s really not a big deal. The boxes are super simple to put together. Where it gets tricky might be drawer glides or certain hinges. But take your time, follow the directions. And that can be a huge time-saver.

    TOM: Well, whether you love it or you hated it, the 80s are back. And whether you’re wearing acid-washed denim or not, the most stylish place to keep your clothes is in a lacquered dresser or chest of drawers. And the sheen doesn’t have to stop there. Leslie has got tips on adding some high gloss for high style.

    LESLIE: Where was this trend 13 years ago when I bought my house and I wanted a lacquered handrail for the staircase? I was like, “Oh, I want lacquer. I want it so shiny, I want it to look wet.” And everybody thought I was nuts.

    TOM: You were ahead of your time.

    LESLIE: I’m always ahead of my time. And now, of course, the lacquer look is hot again.

    Now, for wood to be finished with lacquer, it’s got to be properly prepared, sanded and sealed. So, before applying the lacquer, you’ve got to clean it thoroughly with a tack cloth. You use only aerosol-spray lacquer and protect your working area with drop cloths, newspaper. And above all, make sure you are working in a well-ventilated space.

    Now, you want to apply the lacquer slowly and evenly, holding that spray can about 18 inches from the surface of your project. Any further than that and the lacquer can get that orange-peel look or that dimpled appearance. Closer than that will cause too much lacquer to build up and you’re going to get runs or sags. Either way, not good. So you really want to maintain a safe distance of 18 inches to get that nice look.

    And as you work, you want to overlap the lacquer-spray pattern slightly. Several thin coats is going to get you that high-gloss look, as opposed to a couple of really heavy ones.

    Now, you want to make sure you follow the instructions and let every coat dry completely. You also have to remember that lacquer can be used on most woods but it can’t be used on mahogany and rosewood. The oils in these woods are going to bleed through the finish. And you can also never use it over certain finishes, including oil-based stains and a lot of wood fillers.

    So you need to make sure you do your research because you want it to look great and professional and really beautifully done. You don’t want to do a job that’s going to look not so great, because it’s hard to remove, guys. But it’s an awesome trend.

    TOM: Coming up next time on The Money Pit, colder weather is on its way, which means heating bills can’t be that far behind. We’re going to have tips to take the edge off those bills, 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 2015 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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