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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: On air and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Hope you have enjoyed last weekend, which was Weekend One of the Fourth of July celebration. And now, it’s Weekend Two. We’re at the back end …

    LESLIE: It’s Independence Day, Part Two.

    TOM: Exactly. It’s like Part Doo-ay (ph). So we hope that you are enjoying this second of our two Independence Day weekends. And perhaps you are using this to take some independence from home improvement. That will never do, because we’re here to help you if you are not of those that are taking the time off. Get a project done around your house. We encourage you, as a first step, to pick up the phone and call us. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    So, whatever is on your mind or perhaps that project your spouse has been bugging you to get done, pick up the phone, let’s talk about it. We will help you take that first important step and hey, it’s downhill after that. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, I hope you’ve all been enjoying the great outdoors this summer season, including these last few days of our Independence Day celebration. But have you ever tried to soak in your surroundings only to be eaten alive by mosquitoes? This hour, we’re going to tell you how to keep your yard from turning into a mosquito breeding ground.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, what’s your lawn style? Are you that kind of homeowner that just randomly throws fertilizer on your lawn and then hope for a miracle, pray it takes? Well, there should actually be a method to your madness. So Roger Cook is going to tell us the right way to fertilize in today’s This Old House segment, which is brought to you, in part, by new Trex Enhance Decking, now in stock at The Home Depot.

    TOM: And if you’re finding your outdoor area is a bit boring, have you thought about adding a basketball hoop for the kids to play in and frankly, for the whole family to enjoy? It’s a totally fun project. It’s not as hard as you might think and we are going to tell you how.

    LESLIE: And speaking of things being easy, one lucky caller is going to be able to vacuum their home without actually lifting a finger. We’re giving away …

    TOM: This is an awesome prize.

    LESLIE: I know; this is amazing. We’re giving away a robotic vacuum from Neato and this isn’t just a sweeper: it’s actually a powerful vacuum with a beater brush that’s built right in. And it works on all types of floors.

    TOM: And it’s worth $399. Going to go out to one caller that we speak to this hour with a home improvement question. So why not let that be you? Pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Ron in Kentucky is dealing with some ants. Tell us about the problem. And it’s not like your mom’s sister, right?

    RON: No. No, I’ve got problems with ants, like on my kitchen counter and I just can’t get rid of them. I’ve tried spray, I’ve tried the little ant baits and I just can’t get rid of them.

    TOM: Do you want a natural solution or a nuclear solution?

    RON: Whatever works. I’m open for suggestion.

    TOM: Well, first of all, on the natural side, you can do something like, for example, planting mint around your foundation perimeter is a pretty big ant-deterrent. And mint grows really quickly and it smells nice and the ants hate it. So, that’s something that will deter ants from coming in.

    Once they get into the countertop, what’s good for that? Bay leaves, right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Bay leaves, yeah. You can take, you know, little canisters of bay leaves and just sort of place them just loosely in pots around your countertop. Or if they’re coming in through a windowsill, you can even crush up some of the – in a spice section, bay leaves, the dried ones. Crush them up and drape that – some of – across your windowsill. For some reason, they hate that, as well.

    TOM: Now, if you want a pesticide that can take care of ants, there’s a number of them that are out there that are non-detectable, in the sense that once they’re applied to, usually, the foundation perimeter, the ants will walk through them and get the insecticide on the ant. And since they’re social insects, they take them back to the colony, pass it to the rest of the ants and that wipes them out. And that’s something that would have to be applied, though, by a pro.

    And that said, they’re very effective, so I always recommend pros over do-it-yourself pesticides, because I think that people tend to over-apply the do-it-yourself pesticides and actually give themselves more exposure to those chemicals than they would – that they would have had if they had a pro do it from the get-go. Does that make sense?

    RON: OK. Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Ollie (sp) in South Carolina has a painting and design question. What can we do for you?

    OLLIE (sp): I’ve got paneling. I don’t know if it’s laminated paneling or not but it’s got little grooves in it all the way down and it’s darker than the other paneling itself. And I wanted to paint it. Do I have to do something to fill it in – lines or cracks or what you want to call it?

    LESLIE: Now, the lines that you’re talking about, those are like the beading. It’s like a decorative feature; it’s supposed to be there. Is that what we’re talking about?

    OLLIE (sp): Yeah.

    LESLIE: OK. You don’t want to fill that in only because if you try to fill it in with joint compound or wood filler, it’s just going to dry out, crack, detach. It’s never going to last.

    So you kind of have to think about it. Can you embrace the look of the paneling, as far as a core element, but paint it a different color and love that vertical lining? Or do you just hate that so much that you want to sort of try to remove it or cover it up?

    OLLIE (sp): No, I’d like to leave it if it would make a nice design, you know?

    LESLIE: I personally like it. I think painted paneling can be very lovely in the right type of space with the right type of décor and if you choose a good color. Now, the fact that you don’t know whether it’s wood or laminate, that could be a little bit of a concern only because we want to make sure that you have good adhesion.

    So if the finish on the paneling right now is a little bit glossy or has a shine to it, you want to use a product like a liquid sander. And that’s something that you just wipe on and it sort of abrades the surface.

    First, I’d give it a good cleaning, then I’d lightly abrade it with a liquid sander. Then I would prime it and I would prime it well with a good-quality primer. And then once that’s done, I would paint it. And I really enjoy the look of a paneling that’s in a glossy white. But I think if you go with a neutral color and try not to get crazy and just sort of let it be a neutral background with a decorative detail in it, I think it’ll be great.

    OLLIE (sp): I think it would look nice. But thank you. You have a good day.

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

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

    Happy Independence Day, Part Two. This is the best. We hope you have enjoyed perhaps a 10-day celebration of the Fourth of July. How amazing is this? Two weekends in a row.

    Well, if you’ve got a project that you’re working on or maybe you’re just relaxing or you’re trying to figure out the best way to create an awesome patio for a barbecue party, give us a call. We’re here to give you a hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, mosquitoes can turn a fun outdoor activity into a bit of a pain in the neck or the arm or the leg. We’re going to show you how to keep yourself off that menu, after this.

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

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bostitch. Professional-quality hand tools. Pneumatic and cordless nailers and staplers.

    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, give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We have the answers to your home improvement questions and you will get a chance to put dust bunnies on notice, because we’re giving away a Neato Robotic Vacuum to one lucky caller this hour. It’s worth $399. It lets you set an automatic cleaning schedule and then relax while your floors are cleaned. Give us a call right now. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller to today’s program will win the Neato Robotic Vacuum.

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

    BEN: I have a really old house, kind of like what you guys have, and built in the early – probably early 1900s. Don’t know exactly. But it’s got a rock foundation and we’re in southwest Minnesota, so the ground does freeze pretty deep.

    And basically, the mortar between all of the rocks has pretty much turned to sand. Some places, they worked on re-tuckpointing it here and there. But it’s all kind of coming apart again and some of the rocks, especially on the corners, are even tipping out a little bit. So I’m trying to figure out what I need to do to fix that, if I need to dig down. I have access to equipment. I work in the HVAC business, so we have lots of equipment and I do lots of stuff on my own. So, just seeing if you guys had any pointers for me.

    TOM: So, the foundation is damaged or you’re just concerned about the rocks that are sticking out?

    BEN: Yeah, well, the foundation isn’t particular damaged; it’s actually pretty solid. It’s just that the mortar – since it’s so old, the mortar between all of the rocks has deteriorated to the point where it’s almost like sand. You know what I mean? And it just falls out from between the rocks.

    TOM: So what you need to do is simply to repoint or replace that mortar. Pointing is the act of mixing up new mortar and pulling out the old stuff and then pressing new mortar into place.

    And the type of mortar that you use for repointing is a little stickier than the mortar that would have been done originally. Usually, it has a bit more lime in it, which tends to make it a bit gooier and it sticks to the old stuff pretty well.

    So, what you do is you work one section at a time. You do remove all that loose stuff and then you repoint it up with new mortar. And that’s pretty much normal maintenance with a 1900 foundation. You do have to eventually repoint a foundation like that; it’s not unusual. You can slow it down with proper drainage and things like that but essentially, that’s what we would expect, OK?

    BEN: Right, OK. Perfect. Hey, thanks so much for your time and the advice.

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

    LESLIE: Well, it’s a scene played out in backyards all across America: you’re outside enjoying the warm evening air when all of a sudden, you’re invaded by party crashers. Woohoo! Not woohoo. I’m talking about mosquitoes.

    You know, these little buggers, they can be annoying but they can also carry disease, so it’s really best to just avoid them altogether.

    TOM: Well, that’s right. And while you certainly can spray yourself with bug spray, the best long-term strategy is to try to keep them from breeding in and around your home in the first place.

    So, the first step to that is to eliminate standing water. Because you have standing water around your house, add about five days of time to that, guess what? You get live mosquitoes that are ready to bite you.

    So where could we find standing water around our house? You’re thinking, “Well, all I see is green grass.” Hey, how about your gutters? How many folks have not cleaned their gutters yet this summer? And if you haven’t, a little bit of standing water in those gutters, you could be having an entire mosquito-breeding factory in the gutters that are just surrounding your roof. So watch out for gutters, watch out for kids’ toys, tires, wheelbarrows, bird baths. Anything that holds standing water is a mosquito breeding ground. You’ve got to take steps to eliminate that.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? Even puddles that just stick around for even just a few days after a rain are a mosquito’s dream. Now, you can avoid puddles in your yard by just filling in those low areas with clean dirt. You can cover it with topsoil and then a layer of grass seed or sod.

    If you want some more information, because there’s a lot you can do to keep your yard mosquito-free, go to MoneyPit.com and search “avoiding mosquitoes.”

    TOM: That’s online at MoneyPit.com.

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

    NAOMI: What I have is my backyard, over the past several years we’ve taken down a couple of major trees. They’ve died. And now, whenever it rains, pretty much I have standing water for a long period of time and it’s really nasty.

    So, I’ve been looking online for ideas. I’ve gone to garden centers looking for plants to do well in standing water. And in the Northeast, we don’t have a long growing season, so a lot of the plants that I’m looking up don’t seem to be doing well.

    So, other ideas my husband and I have kicked around are putting a floating deck, I see, that you can build out there?

    TOM: Floating deck? That’s called a raft.

    NAOMI: Yeah. Spring …

    TOM: I don’t think you have to become Tom Sawyer here, Naomi, OK, and build a raft to float down the river.

    NAOMI: Well, my husband’s idea was to put stone all over.

    TOM: How about this idea? How about if we drain the backyard of water? You like that idea?

    NAOMI: Well, how do you go about doing that? We were not sure …

    TOM: So, first of all, it sounds like the backyard is sloped in such a way that the water runs into it but doesn’t run out of it. Is that fair to say?

    NAOMI: That’s pretty – yes, pretty fair to say. My neighbor’s yard is slightly higher.

    TOM: And then is an area below your house that’s slightly lower than the backyard?

    NAOMI: After we bought the house, we found out it was built on a swamp, so everybody has drainage problems.

    TOM: I’m pretty sure that you’re not looking at the water table there; you’re looking at some water that’s staying around. So here’s the solution: it’s called a “curtain drain.”

    And what a curtain drain is is a trench that you construct from the part where the water is ponding to somewhere lower than that in the elevation. Now, the curtain drain is a trench that’s about 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. You put in a couple of inches of stone, then you put in a perforated PVC pipe. And then you put more stone and some filter cloth and you cover it with soil so it’s completely invisible when it’s done.

    But here’s what happens: as the water runs down to that area where it’s ponding now, it falls into the trench, it comes up into the pipe and then it runs down through the pipe and discharges at a lower area of your property. So you are essentially collecting the water, shooting it around the house and then discharging it somewhere at a lower elevation.

    NAOMI: Does this require a backhoe or is this something that we can do with shovel and …?

    TOM: No, you can do it with a shovel. And you don’t need much pitch either: you need about a ¼-inch a foot – per foot – on the pipe. So just as long as you get a nice, clean trench dug, you get the stone in there, you get the perforated pipe in there, it’ll work very well. And it’ll drain that yard whenever it fills up.

    NAOMI: And I look for the wettest part of the yard to start it in and then I go to a – you said a ¼-inch per foot?

    TOM: Foot, yeah. And you want to bring it down to someplace lower on the yard where you can discharge it. And the best thing to do is to discharge it to daylight; in other words, have the pipe actually pop out somewhere so the water can run out.

    NAOMI: OK, great. Terrific. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got Rodney in Illinois on the line with a question about a roof. What can we do for you today?

    RODNEY: Yes. I was just kind of wondering what would be better. I live in the Midwest, in central Illinois, and my house doesn’t have hardly any shade at all.

    TOM: OK.

    RODNEY: I’m going with either a metal roof versus a shingle roof.

    TOM: How long are you planning on being in that house, Rodney? A long time?

    LESLIE: And how much do you want to spend?

    RODNEY: We’re going to be in the house quite a while longer, because we’re planning on adding on in about another five years and – I don’t know.

    TOM: OK.

    RODNEY: I mean I know the shingle would be a lot cheaper; I was just kind of – which one’s better?

    TOM: Right. Well, a metal roof is definitely better than a shingle roof. And the other thing about putting in a metal roof is today, the metal roofs have low-E coatings. That will help you in the summertime because it will reflect a lot of the UV from the sun back out again and it’ll keep the house actually cooler.

    LESLIE: Away from the house.

    TOM: Now, that said, as Leslie referenced, it’s pretty expensive. It’s called investment-grade roofing for a reason.

    LESLIE: But it’s beautiful and it’s going to last a lifetime and you can have it with standing seams or that beautiful, rounded sort of scalloped shingle. You can pick it to look like anything in pretty much any color. It’s a gorgeous roof but it is pricey.

    RODNEY: Right. See, there’s a couple of houses in the neighborhood that’s done that and I was just kind of – I was like, “Well, I don’t know which one to do.” I’m just …

    TOM: Well, that’s the reason to go with it. If you can afford it, Rodney, I think it’s a great idea.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And if you’re going to be in the house 20 years more, it’s worth it.

    TOM: Plus.

    LESLIE: If you’re not going to be there that long, a shingled roof is more affordable and that’s going to need to be replaced in about 20 years anyway. I would consider those factors. But especially since you’re in full sun, you don’t get any shade, your house is probably quite warm, you’re dealing with expensive cooling bills in the summer season – and these stand up to high winds, so …

    TOM: A good website to see what’s available in metal roofing is just MetalRoofing.com. It’s a website that is put together by the Metal Roofing Alliance, which is sort of an alliance of manufacturers and contractors. I’ve got a great photo gallery there, so you can really get a sense as to what the possibilities are.

    RODNEY: OK, OK. That’s great.

    TOM: Alright. Well, 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. Well, you know your lawn needs fertilizing but do you know when, how, how much? It really does seem like a great mystery. So Roger Cook, from TV’s This Old House, will be joining us next with a solution.

    And today’s This Old House segment is brought to you, in part, by Philips. Philips makes products that can save money in all of your lighting fixtures. See what light can do, at Philips.com.

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And hey, with all the summer sun, if you’re still finding your kitchen is a dark corner of your home, it might be time to lighten up. We’ve got great suggestions on how you can do just that, on our website at MoneyPit.com. Just search “ideas for bright kitchens” and let the sun shine in.

    LESLIE: Laurie in New York is on the line with a gardening situation. Tell us what’s going on?

    LAURIE: I have a tea-rose bush in my backyard, which attracts a lot of Japanese beetles. And I was wondering if there is something that I can do to get rid of the Japanese beetles, to save the tree.

    TOM: Well, yeah, there’s traps for that. And the traps work very well. They’re usually scented or they have some sort of a chemical attractant for the beetles. And the beetles are essentially – will essentially walk into the trap, fall into a bag and that’s that.

    One company that makes them is called Rescue – R-e-s-c-u-e. You can go to Rescue.com and take a look at the Japanese and Oriental beetle trap. I’ve used the Rescue products on wasps and bees and always found that they worked really, really well.

    And we’ve seen these folks at many of the trade shows that we go to and they always seem to have a very good-quality product line and they’re very serious about making sure their products work well. And I think that you’ll – that would be a good place for you to start. The Rescue Japanese Beetle Trap, Rescue.com.

    LAURIE: Very good. Thank you very much. I’m going to try that as soon as I get off the phone. I will look at their website.

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

    LESLIE: Are you green with envy over your neighbor’s lush lawn? Well, that lawn, it did not happen to look that way just by magic.

    TOM: That’s right. It takes work to maintain a lawn and one of the necessary steps is fertilizing. You’ve got to get that just right if you want your lawn to look great. Landscaping contractor Roger Cook, from TV’s This Old House, is here to help you make your lawn the envy of your block.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Thank you.

    TOM: Now, this is something that I think we’re all set up for disappointment, because we all see the local golf courses and the neighbors on the street that have golf course-like lawns but never can quite get it right ourselves. It’s a pretty complicated process to get it – when you think about all the things you’re battling. I mean you’re battling weather, you’re battling the seed that you choose, you’re battling the fertilizer, you’re battling the weeds. How do you win that battle?

    ROGER: You don’t. You work the little battles; you win the little, tiny wars.

    TOM: So you choose the ones you can win.

    ROGER: Exactly. You can’t change the soil underneath the lawn, so you have to deal with what you have and work with that.

    LESLIE: So what are some of the things you need to sort of arm yourself with, knowledge-wise, so that you can head to the home center to make those right decisions?

    ROGER: Well, the first thing I would tell you to do is get a soil test done. That’s going to tell you exactly what’s going in the soil, whether it needs nitrogen, phosphorus or it needs lime to balance it and change the pH. Without that, you’re just going blind and putting things down on the lawn.

    TOM: And once you do know that your soil is in good shape and let’s say you do need to add some things to it, are there some tools that actually make that easier? Because lawns are just so big. I mean let’s face it: it’s a lot of work to get it spread just evenly, not to put too much or too little in one particular area. How do you kind of eliminate the human-failure factor when you’re trying to add fertilizer or lime or seed?

    ROGER: The first thing you have to do is read the directions on the bag, then read the directions on your spreader.

    TOM: Guys hate to do that.

    ROGER: Well, you’ve got to, in this case. There’s a number on the bag that will correspond to the spreader you’re using to put down the product at just the right rate. You don’t want to put down too little and you don’t want to do too much.

    Couple things to be careful of. If you put down too much fertilizer – say you stop and it comes pouring out – it’s going to kill the lawn. Number two, if you use a drop spreader, you have to be very careful because there’s no overlap. I can’t tell you how many lawns I’ve seen where after using a drop spreader, there’s stripes all up and down the front lawn. And that’s not a good thing.

    LESLIE: Now, is there a better time of year, over others, to add this variety of components, like the fertilizer, like the lime, like the cedar? Do you do it all at once in, say, the spring?

    ROGER: The lawn needs to be fed consistently over the season.

    LESLIE: OK.

    ROGER: Usually, it’s three or four feedings is what I recommend to people. In the spring, you’re going to get a lot of growth out of your lawn. So if you add a fertilizer which has a lot of nitrogen, which is the first number, then you’re going to get 4 to 6 inches of growth a week and you don’t need that; that makes it hard to cut.

    So in the spring, I like to lower the nitrogen a little bit. Because in the spring, 75 percent of that nitrogen goes to leaves, not to the roots. In the fall, when you put on a late-fall application, 75 percent of that nitrogen goes to the roots instead of pushing top-growth. So in the …

    LESLIE: And that’s just based on the thickness of the lawn at that point? Or is there a different fertilizer that you’re using?

    ROGER: No, it’s based on the physiology of the plant. The plant is getting ready for winter, so it wants to store a lot of energy so the following spring it’ll just pop up.

    LESLIE: OK.

    TOM: Now, you mentioned cutting. I think a lot of folks tend to want to cut their grass very, very low but that can actually hurt the grass, can’t it?

    ROGER: That’s the worst thing you can do for a lawn. Especially if it’s grown long, you haven’t cut it in a week or two, you can even burn the lawn.

    But the thing about a long blade of grass is it actually shades the ground below and keeping it cool, keeping it moist. But more importantly, that helps stop weed seeds from germinating.

    TOM: Right. So if you think you’re doing yourself a favor by cutting it low, you’re actually making more work, because you’re going to get more weeds and the grass that does come out is not going to be nearly as healthy.

    ROGER: Right. And if you scalp an area, that’s killing the grass and the weeds will just climb right in there.

    TOM: Now, what about watering when it comes to the fertilizing and the feeding cycle? Do you always water after that?

    ROGER: I like to water to just to get the material down into the ground, so it won’t break down from the sun’s rays, and just get it down to the roots, which is where you need it to be.

    TOM: Great advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, I think our lawns are going to be looking a lot healthier thanks to your advice.

    ROGER: The neighbors will be green with envy.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and a step-by-step video on how you can fertilizer your lawn and some other projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.

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

    Coming up next, do you need to add a little pizzazz to your yard or a place, perhaps, to keep the kids occupied while school is out? Why not install a basketball hoop? It’s easier than you think. We’ll explain how, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Behr Premium Exterior Weatherproofing Wood Stains and Finishes. Formulated to restore, beautify and protect decks, fences and siding year-round. Behr is available exclusively at The Home Depot, where you can visit the new Exterior Wood Care Center, built to help you find the right products and colors for your project. For more information, visit B-e-h-r.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. Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. Because one lucky caller is pretty much going to get a free pass on a household chore, which is kind of annoying to do. We’re giving away a Neato Robotic Vacuum and it’s a real vacuum that’s going to do all the work for you.

    And it’s not just a sweeper. Check this out: it’s got laser vision, so it knows where your furniture, steps, carpeting, what type of flooring; it knows everything. It doesn’t bump into things or fall off ledges. It’s probably smarter than my dog, I feel like.

    It retails at Target for $399, so give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win this great prize. And then you can kick out and kick back and relax.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Tom in Nebraska on the line with a decking question. How can we help you today?

    TOM IN NEBRASKA: I’m building a cedar deck and I’m trying to figure out which products to use in order to preserve the life of it.

    TOM: OK. Well, cedar is a good choice because it’s naturally insect-resistant, so you don’t have to worry so much about decay. But if you want to stop it from cracking and checking and splitting, which it’ll do simply from exposure to the sun, then you really need to think about putting a product on it that’s got a UV protectant in it, like a stain.

    Now, since it’s brand new, I might suggest, in this particular case, a semi-transparent stain that’s going to give it some UV protection. It’ll help even out the color and it’ll protect it from the cracking and the checking that goes on.

    You can pretty much put it on right away but sometimes when people put – build cedar decks, they want to enjoy them for a few months, just until they start to gray a bit, and then they’ll stain them. So the choice is yours but a semi-transparent stain would be a good option for you right now.

    TOM IN NEBRASKA: OK, cool. I wasn’t sure what to do, you know? I appreciate it, man.

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

    LESLIE: Well, it’s time now for our Project of the Week, presented by Sakrete.

    If you’ve got kids or grandkids, you know the time that they’re off from school can be, shall we say, especially challenging? You’re trying to keep them entertained? Well, have you thought about putting up a basketball hoop? You don’t need to put one over on your garage and hear the never-ending slam of the ball against your house. You can actually easily – and I mean it, easily – put up a pole for the hoop.

    TOM: That’s right. Now, first you want to check to make sure that the ground that you’re working on is level. Then you need to do just a little bit of math. To determine how far down to dig, you want to calculate one-quarter of the pole’s length; that’s how much needs to go into the ground. And as for the width, the hole should be about three times as wide as the pole. So if the pole is, say, 4 inches in diameter, the hole needs to be about 12 inches in diameter.

    Now, to figure out how much concrete you need, there is a very handy calculator on the website for the Sakrete folks. That’s S-a-k-r-e-t-e.com. And that will tell you exactly how much of the Sakrete you need. Now, they recommend using Sakrete’s Fast-Setting Concrete, for obvious reasons, which you simply mix with water in a wheelbarrow and then pour in the hole and you are just about done.

    LESLIE: That’s right. And that’s your Project of the Week, presented by Sakrete.

    Sakrete is the pro’s choice for concrete, mortar and stucco mixes. For more information, visit their website at Sakrete.com. And that’s S-a-k-r-e-t-e.com.

    John in Kentucky is on the line with a trim question. What’s going on?

    JOHN: Well, I have got a house that was built in the 70s and it had really dark, varnished trim on it. And the guy that sold me the house – I guess when he decided to put it up on the market, he just painted all the trim white. And I think he just put one coat of latex on it or something.

    The problem with it is if you brush up against it, the paint peels off of it. And I’m exaggerating a little bit but when we’re moving stuff from room to room or something like that, yeah, you just barely touch it with something and it …

    LESLIE: Probably didn’t sand it or anything.

    JOHN: Right. He just made – because real estate agents will tell you to paint everything white.

    TOM: Yeah. But it’s probably – it’s like trying to paint over Teflon, John. When you don’t – it’s too smooth and it didn’t – wasn’t going to really bite. So what you have to do is really strip it off completely. You have to take off the old paint, you have to sand down into that varnish coat a bit to rough it up. And then what you have to do is prime it.

    The primer is very important, because the primer is going to be the glue that sort of makes the paint stick. It will adhere well to the old varnish and as well to the paint and that’s going to make the difference on giving this new paint some durability.

    JOHN: Yeah. Well, see, that’s what I don’t want to do, because it’s all the trim in the house.

    TOM: Right, OK.

    JOHN: And I can’t go and sand and strip all that. So what I was hoping could be done is – if there’s like a heavy enamel paint or something that would be tougher and wouldn’t scratch off as much?

    TOM: No, because you have a layer in there that’s not adhering to the substrate which, in this case, is the original trim. So anything that you put over that is only going to be as strong as the first layer that was on it and that’s not sticking. So I would not make the problem worse by putting another paint on top of that. It’s just not going to work.

    JOHN: OK. Thank you for your help.

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

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Up next, are the walls in your house looking a bit worse for wear? Well, if you are dealing with worn paint or textured finishes that looked stylish, perhaps, 20 years ago, we’re going to have some solutions that you can use to bring those walls back to life. That’s all coming up, next.

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Hey, if you’ve got a project that you want to show off or maybe a do-it-yourself adventure that you’d love to share, check out our Community section at MoneyPit.com. Once you’re there, you can upload photos, you can write a blog, you can even get other community members to weigh in on your questions or your projects. Really, they’ll just chime in and give you their two cents whether you want it or not, because it’s a very active community. And it’s all online at MoneyPit.com.

    And while you are there, you can post your question. And I’ve got one here from Millie in South Dakota who writes: “My house was built in 1979. Like other houses of that time, the interior walls have a textured finish, which I believe is called ‘skip trowel.’ I really want smooth walls. Is there something that I can do on my own or do I need to hire a pro?”

    TOM: You know, you can smooth out textured walls but the problem is, Millie, that you never get all of that texture off and the paint finish is never as smooth as it would have been had the texture not been added. You may have a little better luck if you have a textured ceiling, because that texturing is usually softer than the texture that’s on the walls.

    So, I would suggest that you take one wall in your house and try to sand down the textures. And then you want to prime it and paint it with a flat. And I really mean only a flat paint because if you use anything with a sheen, you will see the bumps; every single bump will show, especially as the light sort of works its way across the room as the sun comes up and goes down.

    So, I would try that on the single wall and see if you’re satisfied with the quality of the wall after you’re done with that project. This way, you’ll have an idea how long it took you to do that one small wall. You can kind of extrapolate from that, figure out how long it’s going to take you to do the rest of the walls you’re interested in and decide if it’s …

    LESLIE: How much you really want to do it.

    TOM: Yeah, decide if you really want to do it or not. A little reality check.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now I’ve got a post here from Georgia in Pennsylvania. That’s funny; I thought that was the state.

    Alright. Georgia writes: “I moved into an old house with plaster walls. Every time I try to nail into the plaster to hang a picture, little bits of plaster fall out on me. Is there any way I can hang pictures on this?”

    TOM: Well, yeah. And the thing is you really shouldn’t be nailing into plaster, because old plaster is going to be really brittle. You probably have a bit of a chip-off on the side of the wall that you’re standing on but you also may hear some chunks of plaster falling down the hollow wall.

    LESLIE: Falling down behind it.

    TOM: Because as plaster is applied, it spreads out into the little sticks that kind of look like lath, or tomato sticks I always called them, and grabs the back of it. But those little fingers break off and those chunks of plaster fall.

    So, what you really should be doing …

    LESLIE: And it sounds horrifying when you hear it.

    TOM: Right. You really should be doing – is predrilling the plaster. And you actually can get a better connection with a screw than a nail, so I like to predrill and use screws and plaster, not nail. Much more solid connection and you don’t damage the plaster – which is very, very tender at its old age – in the process.

    LESLIE: And repairing plaster is never fun. Have you tried to skim-coat things, people? Takes ages.

    Alright. Now we’ve got Sal in New York who writes: “I’m building a new home. The builder suggested hot water on demand but my regular plumber says he’s concerned about the maintenance, repair and parts. Any advice?”

    TOM: Yeah, well, you’ve got a plumber there that’s not really up to speed on tankless water heaters.

    Not really an issue. They’ve been out for a long time; they work well. I would suggest that he reads up on them or you find a different plumber. Because I’ve got to tell you, if you don’t put in the water heater correctly, Mr. Plumber out there, it’s not going to work right and you’re going to have a lot of maintenance headaches.

    So, you’ve got to understand how to install it. They use a slightly larger gas line. Even though they use less gas, the line is bigger. So you need to have a plumber that knows how to install them.

    LESLIE: Alright, Sal. Good luck with that dream home.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. We hope we’ve given you a few tips, ideas and inspiration to help you take on the projects that you’d like to get done around your house. If you need a resource 24-7, you can always jump on our website at MoneyPit.com, you can call us at 888-MONEY-PIT or you can post your question to the Community section, again, on MoneyPit.com.

    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 2012 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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