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  • Transcript

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are so thrilled to be here with you today on this beautiful summer afternoon. It’s very nice here in our part of the country. Hope it is fantastic where you call home. But hey, if you’ve got questions, big or small, about taking care of that house, that home, please give us a call right now. Because we’d love to talk to you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Coming up on today’s program, we’ve all heard the warnings about what the sun can do to our skin but what about our home? Harsh and direct sunlight can definitely fade your furniture and floors, not to mention raise your energy cost. We’re going to tell you about a way that you can shut out the damaging rays, with the push of a button, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And have you ever flipped on your faucet only to get a blast of smelly water? Yuck. Richard Trethewey from This Old House will be here to tell you how to make that stinky water go away.

    TOM: And it’s actually the perfect time of year to abandon your kitchen and turn to your backyard grill instead. We’re going to have important information on how you can prep that gas grill for its busy season.

    LESLIE: And is your home plagued by mold, mildew, moss or algae? Well, we’re going to make all of that go away for one lucky listener, because this hour we’ve got a three-pack of Spray & Forget No-Rinse Exterior Cleaner.

    TOM: Spray & Forget is fantastic. It removes exterior stains without the need for rinsing. This package is worth 84 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random, so make that you. Pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Craig in Rhode Island is on the line and he needs some help with a bathroom makeover. What are you working on?

    CRAIG: Well, actually, my second bathroom in my master, it’s kind of old. It has a Symmons water mixer – a shutoff valve. And actually, I’m looking to replace it. It’s cracked, it has some issues. But I can’t get behind the shower to open the wall up to replace it because it’s actually adjacent to my first bathroom shower. It’s a fiberglass, one-piece pop-in.

    My first thought is, “Take the insert out, tile it.” But then I have to put a shower pan in. I’d have to do a lot more extra work and money. And then I heard possibly cutting the hole bigger and they have bigger back plates. But I mean I don’t want it to look awkward as well, you know?

    TOM: So what exactly is wrong with the valve you have there now?

    CRAIG: Well, see, I don’t think the mixing valve – I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But the plate on the shut-off valve, it’s cracked. I also have well water. I know it’s been taking a toll on the pipes. The home is 20 years old. I’m pretty sure it’s original to the home, as well. I’ve only owned it for about coming up on two years now and …

    TOM: So you basically are telling me that it’s a cosmetic piece?

    CRAIG: It is, it is. But I’m redoing the bathroom and I want to update the fixtures. And like I said, it’s kind of your typical apartment, Symmons, very like a chrome – the kind of cheap, chrome finish.

    TOM: Well, look, you have the most impossible scenario because you have back-to-back plumbing walls. And typically, you design bathrooms so that one side of the wall’s a closet where you can go and tear out the back wall and then you can get to the valves. But in your case, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t, because you either have to take apart the fiberglass shower or you’ve got to take apart the shower that’s basically getting you started here.

    And I don’t really have a good solution for you. I was asking you about the existing valves because I was wondering if maybe – sometimes, plumbers can rebuild all the working parts of that from the action side, from the inside, and maybe pick up some additional faucets that will look like they’ll work in there. I wouldn’t go to the tear-out without at least exploring that.

    I, for example, recently had a new shower valve that had to really be replaced. And it turned out that the valves were plastic – inside, some of the valve components were plastic. The seats? And we tore them out and we replaced them with brass. And we were able to find those at a plumbing-supply store. And so I didn’t have to actually replace the faucet.

    CRAIG: My next step is going to – I’m going to go to a plumbing supply and see if they just have an updated kind of – updated Symmons where I could keep that valve in and everything is kind of pieced together, as well.

    TOM: Right. I think that’s a smart thing. What you want to do is take some pictures of that and go talk to a knowledgeable guy behind the counter and figure out what your options are.

    CRAIG: Yeah, yeah. That’s my next step and it’s not a – I guess I’ll be tiling a new shower.

    TOM: Yeah. If you can figure out a way to make it passable, I think you should do that because you know what?

    CRAIG: Yeah?

    TOM: Nobody’s going to see that space and I’d hate to see you spend a few thousand bucks redoing it if all you’re trying to get is new valves.

    CRAIG: That’s what I’m trying to stay away from. Well, thank you, guys, very much.

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

    LESLIE: Judy in Minnesota is on the line with a moisture issue. What’s going on?

    JUDY: Our house is about 40 years old. And it has – in the room that we’re talking about, we’re painting it. We painted it once before without a primer. And it turned out really – I thought it looked really nice. But now we repainted it a different color. And on the inside, then, is that rough paneling. And it’s separated by – it’s got the insulation in there with a plastic on it. And we noticed now that we’re going to paint it that there’s moisture halfway down on the paneling. We think that’s caused by condensation.

    TOM: It may very well be if it’s a damp space.

    Now, there are some things that you can do to reduce condensation in below-grade spaces. It’s kind of the same steps that you would take if you were having an actual flood. You want to make sure that your exterior drainage is set up so that no moisture is being trapped against the outside foundation wall. And that means making sure the gutters are clean, the downspouts are extended and the soil slopes away from the walls.

    If you’ve done all those things, then the next thing I would do is I would install a dehumidifier in that space. And try to find one that has a built-in condensate pump so that it collects water and pumps it out. Otherwise, you’ll be emptying buckets upon buckets of water.

    And then, finally, it’s also possible to install a whole-home dehumidifier, which is an appliance that is attached to your HVAC system. These are highly effective at pulling moisture out. In fact, most of them will take 99 or 100 pints of water out a day. So, those are three different ways that you can reduce moisture in that space.

    Judy, 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. Give us a call on this very first weekend of the summer. We want to see what you’re working on. Hopefully, you’re getting in some relaxing, too. I feel like you’ve got to mark the beginning of summer by maybe resting for a few minutes but also doing lots of home improvement work. And that’s where we come in. Give us a call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Hey, these days, you wouldn’t think of going in the summer sun without sunscreen. But those same UV rays can inflict damage to your house if it’s not protected. We’ll tell you how, 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, pick up the phone, call us, right now, with your home improvement question. And if you’re looking outside your house and you see stuff like mold and mildew and algae and moss, well, we’ve got a great prize we’re giving away that can make that all go away.

    We’re giving away Spray & Forget, a fantastic household cleaner that completely eliminates that yucky stuff. You can learn more at SprayAndForget.com. But Spray & Forget removes exterior stains that are caused by mold, mildew, algae, moss and lichen without the need for rinsing.

    The package is worth 84 bucks. Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Michael in Virginia is on the line and is working on a decking project. Tell us about it.

    MICHAEL: Hey. So I’ve got a 12×12 deck that came with the house. And it’s about 20 years old. Some boards are starting to peel up. And I know I’ll be able to get a screw to stick in the sublayment (ph). Am I able to sister the underlying boards with 2x4s or something to build up the base? Or am I better off replacing all of the substructure along with the deck?

    TOM: So, if it’s 20 years old – and it sounds like it’s not pressure-treated – and if the existing floor joists have decayed to the point where they won’t even hold a screw or a nail, I think it’s time to replace that deck, structure and all. Because your – the clock is ticking now and it’s going to be potentially very unsafe in a very short period of time.

    So what I would tell you to do is to remove it, replace it and consider using composite for the decking surface. You can use pressure-treated for the frame but use composite for the decking surface. Between the composite and the pressure-treated, you’ll get more than another 20 years out of it.

    MICHAEL: OK.

    Now, I’ve looked at composites and price-wise, they’re pretty pricey. Am I going to be able to save a few bucks by going to a heavier duty, like a 2×6 kiln-dried board, and sealing all that when it goes in?

    TOM: Well, the thing is you don’t – well, I wouldn’t use 2×6. What I would use it 5/4×6 if you want to go with the wood decking. But you’re going to have to seal and stain that every couple of years. The thing with composites is all you’ve got to do is clean it. If you look at a big-box store, like a Home Depot, those composites are not terribly expensive and they look really good.

    MICHAEL: Alright. I’ll have to check them out.

    TOM: Because remember, you’re not replacing the floor joists with it. You’re only doing the deck surface. So if it’s 12×12, it’s 144 square feet, it’s 288 lineal feet. It’s probably worth it.

    MICHAEL: I see. Now, we are thinking about expanding it another few feet, too.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, that will be the time to do it, you know?

    MICHAEL: OK.

    LESLIE: So you’re doing – the substructure is still all of the pressure-treated lumber, because you need that for the support, and then all of the decking itself and the fascia boards – and you can even do the railings. All of that can be the composite. And it’s really gorgeous. I have one that’s sort of mid-range but it has an interesting grain to it and almost looks like an ipe. You can get ones that are super simple and you can get ones that really look exotic. And I think that’s where your price point is going to swing a lot.

    MICHAEL: Now, how do you deal with the railings and the fencing it in?

    LESLIE: So the post would come up and that would be the basis for your supports and that would be your pressure-treated lumber. And that would be built up through from the substructure. And then there are sleeves that go over it in the composite. Now, you can get ones that match your decking or you can go with white.

    MICHAEL: And then for the substructure – now, I am talking about staining this out. There are these concrete – I don’t know, they’re about a foot by a foot – blocks that you can buy that you can lay your 4×6 across for – they say it’s for decking in the yard. Am I better off doing that or poured concrete?

    TOM: There are prefabricated footings for decks. They look sort of like pyramids but they’re not like 1×1. They’re like 1x1x3-feet tall and they have a place for a bracket on top. I’d use those. They work really well. They’re a little harder to install because you’ve got to be more accurate with where the hole is. But frankly, I think the easiest thing to do is just to dig it yourself – a 1-foot by 1-foot square that’s a couple of feet deep – and mix up 3 or 4 bags of QUIKRETE and make that the footing. And then you can drop the pressure-treated right into that. And then if you use the right level of pressure-treated, it can actually be in-ground.

    MICHAEL: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks a lot, Tom.

    TOM: You’ve got it. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Allison in New York on the line who has an unwanted visitor at their money pit. What’s going on?

    ALLISON: My husband – I wish he was all with me – but our mission is to humanely trap we believe to be a squirrel that’s running between the drop ceiling in our basement. And my husband said, “Two-by-eight joint rafters.” There’s like a 2-inch space only and …

    TOM: What I want you to do is to go out and pick up a trap called a Havahart trap. Now, these Havahart traps are live traps in that they’re going to catch this squirrel. And then you’re going to pull this trap out and you can take them out to the woods somewhere and release them.

    What you do with the Havahart trap is once you get it set up, in the back of the trap where you want this squirrel to kind of end up, put an apple back there. And don’t just put it back there but wire it to the back wall of the trap. Take a piece of picture wire, thread it through the apple and kind of tie it off. Because I’ll tell you what, even though these traps are good, those squirrels and other small rascals can sometimes grab that without tripping the door. But if you wire it to the back of the trap, they don’t have a chance. And set it near the opening, wherever you can get access to it.

    And I’ll tell you, sooner or later, that squirrel is going to wander in that trap and bam, you’ll hear the door slap and they will not be happy. They’ll kind of be running in circles trying to figure out a way to get out. But you can cover them with a blanket, throw them in the back of your car, in the trunk, and take it out somewhere. And then as you open that up, believe me, they’re not going to stand around to kind of talk about it with you; they’ll just bolt. As soon as you lift that door, they will bolt into the woods.

    ALLISON: OK.

    TOM: I hope that helps you out, Allison. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, we all know the damage sun can do to your skin. But did you know that it can soar through your windows and doors and do damage to your home? It can. Here’s how: the ultra-violet rays – the UV rays – that come through those windows and doors can fade fabric and paint. They can drive up cooling costs and it can even whitewash your wood surfaces, as well.

    LESLIE: Now, there’s a couple of solutions that you can consider. The most obvious are shades. But to step that up to the point where you don’t have to even think about whether they’re up or down, you can consider one of the many available choices that are out there in smart shades.

    Now, smart shades work off apps and they can be timed to lower when the sun is really at its brightest. And then they’ll go up when the sun isn’t so bright. And they can also come down at a preset time in the evening just to help with security.

    TOM: Now, another option is to have window film installed. Window films are designed specifically to block UV rays. And these can also protect furnishings and even help cut cooling costs in rooms where window coverings are not an attractive option. So, for example, if you have a great room with beautiful, tall windows and you really don’t want to go through the trouble of covering them with shades or other types of window treatments, you can install window films. And they will cut that light to a point where it’s very, very manageable.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Bob from Arkansas on the line with a flooring problem. What’s going on at your house?

    BOB: I was out of town overnight and our house flooded inside from a broken pipe. And it flooded the whole house. So, the company came in and tore out all my flooring and subflooring. And when they came back in, the contractor is about Pergo – or not Pergo – stick-together tiles that are like Pergo. Anyway, when they put them together or put them in, did not lock them together. They laid them on the floor and knocked them together and broke all my locks. Now they’re coming apart.

    TOM: Oh, we see – a lot of those laminate floor tiles, they’re not designed to be glued together. They’re sort of a locking joint.

    Now, if they did not install them correctly, if they tried to bang them together instead – so you have to sort of like rotate them to click together. Then there’s going to be nothing you can do about that. They have essentially damaged the floor.

    BOB: OK. My question is – they’re going to replace it but should I have them tear out this whole flooring and put the new one in or just put this over that?

    TOM: Yeah, definitely get rid of the old stuff because it’s not going to be secure. There could be movement under that. No, I would go back to the way it was. Get rid of that old flooring and start again from scratch.

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

    LESLIE: Andrea from Ontario, Canada is on the line with a mold question. How can we help you today?

    ANDREA: My question (inaudible at 0:16:40) regarding black mold. And it’s behind my sink. Between the sink and the backsplash, there’s a little bit of space and this black mold settles in. There’s a lot of moisture, obviously. They’re running the water and it splashes, so – behind and around the sink, as well as around my tub.

    I tried bleach. I scrubbed it. We, at one point, took out the caulking and recaulked it but it came back. So I’m at a – kind of a loss what to do with this.

    TOM: Mold is going to grow any place that you have an organic material, which could be drywall. Or it could also be, believe it or not, soap scum. It can have organic matter in it and that can feed mold. And so, you have a condition there that’s going to be prevalent to mold regrowth. Even when you clean it, it’s going to come back. You’re not going to permanently prevent it unless you change the environment – the climate – that exists in that particular area.

    So, with respect to the tile area, let’s deal with that first. When you retiled – when you recaulked, I’m sorry – did you pull all the old caulk out?

    ANDREA: Pulled it all out. Took it all out. It was actually our contractor who said, “Keep it very dry.” “Bone dry,” he called it. And then once we had it all dried out, then he came back and put a layer of this white material. I’m not exactly sure what it was but he finished it all.

    TOM: OK. So you’re not quite sure what the product is.

    Here would be the steps. When you pull the old caulk out, you need to spray the joint between the tub and the tile with a bleach solution. That’s going to kill any mold spores that are left behind. Then, after that’s dry, one additional step: fill up the tub with water because it makes it heavy and it pulls it down. And then you caulk it.

    And when you caulk it, you want to use a product that has mildicide in it. Now, DAP, for example, has a caulk that has an additive called Microban. And Microban will not grow mold; it will prevent it from growing. And so, if you use the right product and you take the step of treating it with a bleach solution first, before you apply it, that helps it to last as long as possible. But again, if you don’t control humidity conditions, eventually it will come back.

    As for the sink, the same advice applies. You not only have to clean it, which takes away the visual, but you have to spray it with a mildicide. And so you could mix, say, a 10- to 20-percent bleach solution with water. And then let it dry and that will help prevent it from coming back.

    ANDREA: I’ll try that.

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

    LESLIE: Coming up, has smelly water shown up at your house? Well, the problem can most often be traced to just one part of your water heater. We’ll share that solution, next.

    JOE: This is Joe Namath. Now, when I’m not throwing a football around, I’m listening to Tom and Leslie on The Money Pit.

    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’d love to talk with you about your home projects. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Maybe you’ve got an apartment you’re fixing up; trying to find some storage space; need to paint the walls, paint the ceilings, cover some stains, fix a leak. Whatever is going on in your money pit, we can help. The number, again: 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Paul in New York is on the line. What can we do for you at your money pit?

    PAUL: I’d like to finish my basement, make it a more usable area. But I have a problem with some water leakage at times. I believe the construction is called a “floating slab” where there’s a weep channel around the edge of the basement that goes into a sump pit.

    TOM: Tell me, when do you seem to have the biggest problem with signs of water coming in or actual water coming in?

    PAUL: Heavy rains.

    TOM: Alright. So I’ve got great news for you. You don’t need anything more than some minor adjustment in the grading and drainage outside.

    Whenever you have water that leaks and after a heavy rain, that’s always caused by exterior drainage conditions that are just not right. And usually, it’s as simple as not having the right gutter set up around the house. You need to have gutters. They need to be clean and free-flowing and the downspouts – now, this is where most people get it wrong – have to be extended a minimum of 4 to 6 feet away from the house. Because those first few feet at the foundation perimeter are where water collects and saturates and then goes down into those basement walls and shows up as a leak inside. So I want you to look at that very, very carefully.

    The second thing is the angle of the soil at the foundation perimeter has to pitch away from the house. And it has to do so with soil that can drain. Sometimes we see people that pile up a lot of mulch around the house or they have a lot of topsoil around the house or they have sort of like a brick edging around some landscaping that kind of acts as like a retention pond and it holds the water against the house. You basically want to move that water. That first few feet around the house, move it away. Get it going so that it drains away. It can drop about 6 inches over the first 4 feet. But after that, it can move slower with a gentler slope away from the rest of the house.

    Those two things will solve the vast majority of flooded crawlspaces and flooded basements in this country. The only time you need to install a very expensive, sub-slab drainage system is when you have a high water table. And that behaves differently. When you have a high water table, water comes up very slowly. Generally, in the winter it’s typically higher and then goes down very slowly. And you can actually physically see that water sometimes ponding in the sump pit or something like that. But when you have rain or snow melt and you get water in your basement, that’s because of drainage and that’s really easy to fix.

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

    LESLIE: Well, it’s a common complaint among homeowners for good reason. Nobody wants to drink or cook or even clean with smelly, rotten-egg tap water.

    TOM: That’s right. And here to tell us about how to offset that odor and hopefully get rid of it once and for all is Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hey, guys.

    TOM: Hey. So, what’s the most common cause of that sort of rotten-egg smell? I think everyone has smelled this at one time or another. But if it’s very consistent in your house, where is it coming from?

    RICHARD: Well, that’s the question I’m going to ask you. Is it coming from both the hot and the cold or if it’s just the hot? Because if it’s from both the hot and the cold – when you open up the faucet, you get that smell. And if you have a well, I would look at – I would call a well contractor and have him put in a sulfur filter: some way to knock down the sulfur that can occur in groundwater.

    TOM: So the smell is really sulfur. Is that what we’re …?

    RICHARD: That’s right. Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    TOM: That’s what we’re smelling is sulfur in the water.

    RICHARD: Yeah, it can pick up – it’s actually because the hydrogen sulfide is actually absorbed out of the bedrock that can get in the water. And then you have to find a way to get that sulfur portion of the sulfide out. And that’s done with a filter.

    TOM: Now, if it’s coming through only the hot water, is there an internal source for that?

    RICHARD: Well, that – and by the way, that’s the most common to have it be on the hot-water side. And whenever I hear the smell of sulfur, that rotten-egg smell that’s so pungent …

    LESLIE: It’s horrible.

    RICHARD: It’s really. And I know you only drink French bottled water.

    LESLIE: No. That’s so not true. I am such a tap-water gal.

    TOM: That actually maintains her natural beauty.

    RICHARD: So, inside of your water heater that’s down in the basement, generally, there is a sacrificial anode rod inside. It’s made out of magnesium. And what it’s doing is …

    TOM: And that’s in the water heater?

    RICHARD: In the water heater. In the gas or electric water heater.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: And it’s – and that sacrificial anode is the least noble metal inside that whole tank. And what’ll happen is it will – the hydrogen sulfide will attack that and it’ll just start eating that. And once that’s gone, all of a sudden, there’s nothing to stop this advent of hydrogen sulfide and the rotten-egg smell. And it’ll start smelling out of the hot-water heater anytime you open up the hot-water faucet.

    TOM: I see. So if you …

    LESLIE: How long does it take for that anode to disintegrate?

    RICHARD: I’ve seen it go in 2 years but mostly, it’d last just about as long as the water heater does, which is about 9.9 years, about what the warranty …

    LESLIE: Or with some of our callers, 20 years.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. Or one month less than the warranty.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Right. But …

    TOM: Now, I think that a lot of folks don’t recognize that that is something that A) fails and B) is actually replaceable, right?

    RICHARD: It is. Now, we’ve had our fun trying to get some of these anode rods out. If you look at a standard cylindrical gas or electric water heater, at the top, there’s two connections: there’s a hot and a cold. But if you look around at the top, there’s also – you’ll also see, generally, one more sort of usually a knurled nut that sits at the top that, if you get the right wrench on it – and they make a wrench just for mag rods – you can back it out and try to get it out. But the fact is if you don’t think about doing this until about five to seven years in, that glass lined steel tank – the water heater has pretty much fused against that – the thread.

    And we’ve – on This Old House and Ask This Old House – we’ve tried to show how to remove it. And we’ve had seven people standing on extension wrenches and we just couldn’t get – it was pretty hilarious.

    So, what you need to do is you need to change the anode after a couple of years. If you know you’re in an area that you’ve got aggressive water like this …

    TOM: Stay ahead of it.

    RICHARD: You’ve got to stay ahead of it.

    Now, they also – sometimes you’ll also find, in a low basement, the anode rod might be, what, 4 feet long and there’s no height. You can’t get it out.

    TOM: So you can fight with that thing for an hour and then not be able to get it out of the water heater.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Right. And then you could cut the old one to get it out if you had to.

    LESLIE: But how do you get the new one in?

    RICHARD: But they do make a replacement mag rod, which is actually like sausage links.

    TOM: Oh, in pieces?

    RICHARD: Correct. So it just comes down, you drop it back in and then that gets you out of it. But it’s – you don’t notice it until you notice it and then sometimes, it might be too late; you’re not going to get that mag rod out.

    TOM: It sounds like this is the kind of project, especially if your water heater is five or six or seven years old, which it almost may not be worth it.

    RICHARD: If it’s a finished basement, you’d do better to just get a brand-new water heater.

    TOM: And they get more efficient all the time.

    RICHARD: Yeah.

    TOM: So you can’t go wrong doing that.

    RICHARD: Yep.

    TOM: Richard Trethewey, the plumbing-and-heating contractor on TV’s This Old House, thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    RICHARD: Always great to be with you guys.

    LESLIE: Alright. 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.

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

    Coming up, do these warm weekends have you raring to fire up your gas grill? Well, it sounds great but it could be a disaster waiting to happen if you don’t prep those dormant grills first. We’ll tell you how, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by QUIKRETE. It’s what America is made of. For project help from start to finish, download the new QUIKRETE mobile app.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’d love to help you out with whatever it is you are working on. Plus, we’d love to give you the tools to get the job done.

    And this hour, we’re giving away to one lucky caller a Spray & Forget prize pack. It includes three House and Deck Ready-to-Use Trigger Sprayers. And it removes exterior stains that are caused by mold and mildew and algae and moss and pretty much everything that’s built up over the winter and then makes everything not look so nice this time of year. And all you have to do is spray it and forget it. No need to rinse.

    Check out their website. It’s SprayAndForget.com. And it’s a prize pack worth 84 bucks.

    TOM: Going out to one caller drawn at random. Make that you. The number, again, is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Susan in California is on the line and needs some help with a driveway makeover. What’s going on at your money pit?

    SUSAN: I’m so glad you said “the money pit” because that’s exactly what it is. And now it’s the driveway, about 1,200 square feet. And it’s been – it’s about 38 years old and it needs something else done. And I really don’t want to resurface it with blacktop. What are my options?

    TOM: So it’s an asphalt driveway now? That’s what you’re starting with?

    SUSAN: Yes, yes.

    TOM: Yeah. Listen, I’ve got news for you, Susan: a 38-year-old roadway needs to be replaced. And that’s exactly what you have. Whether it’s a road that goes down the street or a road that’s a highway, nothing lasts 38 years. And if you’ve gotten 38 years out of that driveway, it’s time for a new one. And sure, you can keep slapping sealer on it and patching the cracks and all of that but at that age, it’s got to go.

    SUSAN: What’s the best way? Do they just remove the whole thing and then start from scratch? Or what’s the best way to go?

    TOM: I think that’s the best way. In most cases, that’s the best way. You can resurface it. But if you want to make sure that the base is really solid, you would take off the old. They would put a new base down, they would compact it with machines so it’s really, really solid and then they would apply new asphalt on top of that.

    I would make sure I got a specification as to exactly how many inches of this material they’re going to put down so that you can compare apples to apples when you’re looking at different contractors. But I think that’s going to be your best solution.

    SUSAN: OK. Well, thank you so much.

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

    Well, summer is the season for sizzling steaks. But whether your gas grill is new or if it’s been around the block a few times, there are some steps you need to take before slapping on that first slab of beef or fish or even veggies.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First of all, if your grill is new, you’re going to have to season it. So, to do that, you want to just wipe down the interior with a wet cloth and then coat it in vegetable oil or shortening and ignite all the burners. You want to set it to medium heat, which is about 300 degrees. Now, when it reaches that medium heat, you want to close the lid and turn it down to about 250 and let it go for an hour or even two hours until that coating stops smoking. And then it’s going to form a protective coating.

    TOM: Now, if your grill isn’t new, you’re going to need to scrape off any charred food debris with a wire grill brush. You want to change out any old or burnt lava rocks and also clean the venturi. Now, the venturi are the tubes that run the gas or propane from the tank to the burners. And they happen to be a place that spiders love to nest. And any kind of blockage that they create there can cause a backup that’s going to lead to an explosion, usually small but sometimes big.

    Now, speaking of things that you don’t want to happen with gas, you also need to check those gas lines for leaks. Easy way to do that is to get some soapy water – take a little dish soap, perhaps – mix it in with some water and then apply that with a paintbrush to all the connections. If you see anything bubble up, well, that means you’ve got a leak there. You’ve got to tighten up that connection or replace it if you can’t make it go away.

    If you’d like more tips on grill prep and safety, head on over to MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Hi, Fred. Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    FRED: I have a standard toilet. House was built in ’29, so it’s, what, 80 years old? It’s the type where the tank hangs on the wall and then you have an L and then you have, I guess – what do you call that? The bowl?

    And it started to leak and so the old metal was pretty corroded and everything. So we took everything out. We took the tank off the wall, we – I say we, that I, the plumber who I’ve been using for many years – cleaned everything up. Went to the hardware store that handles these kind of fittings and we just cannot get this thing to work. It leaks …

    TOM: Where does it leak? Does it leak at the – where at – the base of the tank where the pipe connects?

    FRED: In both, yeah. Well, one time we did it, it leaked at the bottom of the tank. The other time, it leaked when it went into the bowl.

    TOM: What kind of a washer are you using? What kind of a gasket or seal are you using in those two places?

    FRED: Well, I don’t know the technical names of it. The guy at the – they look like the same stuff we took off. I’m a musician; I don’t know all these things.

    TOM: Well, this shouldn’t be that hard to accomplish and it sounds like whatever they’re using in that gasket space right there is not working. And look, if all else fails, you can simply use silicone here. You could apply the silicone in – as you put this together, you could – you seal all of those joints with silicone. Let it dry. Try not to touch it until it dries. And then you can take a razor blade and cut off the excess, nice and neat, and essentially make your own gasket.

    FRED: Yeah, the plumber mentioned something. He said the only thing is if that thing fails and I’m not home, I’m going to have a house full of water.

    TOM: That’s true. But the thing is, if it – once it works, it usually works, you know, continuously. It’s not – it doesn’t usually fail. If you get it right, it’s not going to fail, OK?

    FRED: Yes. So, in other words, unless I can see some chips or damage on the porcelain or something like that, which I don’t see, it should work.

    TOM: But I would take it apart and I would seal, with silicone, each connection as it goes together so that you end up with a good compression of silicone around that. That’s the solution, OK?

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

    Hey, if you plan on enjoying cool air around the clock as the temperatures are climbing, you might want to take the time now to make sure that your system is running efficiently. Air-conditioning maintenance tips, after this.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Hey, have you checked your A/C filters yet? If you haven’t, now is a great time to do that. Now that we’re running air conditioning, you want to make sure that that air is clean. Not only will it cut down the dust in the house, it can actually prevent your air-conditioning system from failing. So replace those filters today.

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online checking everything out at MoneyPit.com, post your question, just like Alex did. And he writes from Florida: “I have a four-year-old, central air-conditioning system. It works well except for the front room of my house. It’s always about 5 degrees hotter. Any idea why and how can I fix this?”

    TOM: This is a very common thing, Alex, where you have differences in the temperature in different rooms. And it stems from a centrally installed system that was never properly balanced. Every room in your house, every space in the house has different cooling needs. And if they’re not – if your system doesn’t supply enough BTUs – enough cooling BTUs – to that space, it’s not going to be the same temperature as the rest of the house. So what do we do about that? Well, a couple of things.

    First of all, you might want to think about adding an additional supply register to that room. And Florida houses, very often they’re one-story and you can run it through the attic to get to that space pretty easily. Secondly, you also might want to make sure you have good returns from that room.

    Now, return air is as important as supply air because air-conditioning doesn’t work by simply supplying that cold air to the room without it having to recycle back to the HVAC system. It’s got to go – it’s got to be supplied and has to return over and over and over again to make sure that we’re getting the proper flow. So, more supply air, more returns.

    Secondly, you can take steps to cut down on the heating load of that room. If you’ve got windows on that side, if it happens to be on the south side of the house, think about making sure you have shades there. Think about, perhaps, adding window films that have UV protectorate in them to stop the solar gain in that space.

    And then finally, if all else fails, you could consider supplemental cooling via a split-ductless system. You know, I have a space in my house that is on the southwest side of the house and it’s not – it’s a really old house. It’s kind of hard to get a lot of ducts where this room is. So what we did is we added a split-ductless system there as a supplement to the central air. And now it’s quite comfortable.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Jen who writes: “What’s the best way to get wallpaper glue off of a wall?”

    TOM: That’s another good question, Jen, and one that we get pretty often here.

    First of all, removing wallpaper is – oh, gosh, it’s such a hassle.

    LESLIE: It’s a chore.

    TOM: There’s no really easy way to do this. All of the products that you can apply to wallpaper do a pretty decent job of loosening it up. But there’s a lot of labor involved.

    What we found is the surefire, most reliable, best way to remove wallpaper is to use or rent, I should say, a wallpaper steamer. This does the best job of softening up not only the paper but the glue underneath it. And using a steamer, along with a scraper, gives you the best chance of getting that glue off.

    Now, after you have it off, you really need to lightly sand that wall and then apply a good, thick coat of an oil-based primer – a solvent-based primer – to that entire surface. Otherwise, the topcoat of paint is not going to look so hot and it might be kind of lumpy and inconsistent and would have different shades or sheens. So the primer’s important after you get all of that wallpaper paste off the wall.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And don’t forget, let that wallpaper paste that’s stuck to the wall dry after the steaming before you go and sand, because you really just want to knock it down. And that’ll do the trick.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Hey, thank you so much for spending this hour with us. Remember now, if you’ve got questions any time of the day or night, we are always available at 888-MONEY-PIT or online at MoneyPit.com, where you can post your home improvement question. If we’re not in the studio when you call or when your question comes in, we will get back to you the next time we are.

    Happy summer, everyone. 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.

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (Copyright 2016 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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