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Keep Your Family Safe with Winter Survival Tools, Discover the High-Tech Bathrooms of the Future, and Stop Your Home’s Water Lines from Freezing

  • 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: And we are here to help you tackle your home improvement projects or at least give you some advice, even if you want to hire that job out. Call us first; I guarantee you we can make the project simpler and perhaps even save you some money. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    Well, if you live in a chilly part of the country, you know that we are not out of the clear yet. Some of the harshest winter weather hits in February and even into March. So to help you get prepared, we’ve got a snow-survival checklist for your house, coming up.

    LESLIE: Well, that’s why February has so many R’s in it, because it’s Febrrruary (ph) and of course, the month of my birth, so I think that’s why I prefer winter.

    But along the home improvement lines, also ahead this hour, guys, have you ever dreamed of having a futuristic bathroom: you know, the kind that practically does everything for you? Well, guess what? The bathroom of the future is here. We’ve got tips on cool, new gadgets for bringing your bathroom into the 21st century.

    TOM: Plus, we’re talking frozen pipes this hour, another common winter dilemma. If it’s ever happened to you, you know all too well how expensive a problem that can be. So we’ll have some tips to help you keep them from freezing.

    LESLIE: And also, these darker, winter days mean that lights are on longer. And one lucky caller will never pay those extra electricity costs again, because we’re giving away a TCP Smart LED Light Bulb Starter Kit.

    TOM: I got a chance to check out this product at the Consumer Electronics Show and it’s very cool. It lets you control up to 250 lights in your home from any computer, tablet, smartphone, you name it no matter where you are: up the street, in your house or across the globe. It’s worth 80 bucks but it’s going out to one caller drawn at random from those we talk to on today’s show, so give us a call right now. We are standing by for your questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Chad in Florida is on the line and having a really hard time getting that perfect shower. Tell us what’s going on.

    CHAD: Oh, I’ve got an issue. The house was built in the late 50s, early 60s. And you go to take a shower and you turn the hot water – you think it would be up and then you turn the cold water on and it just seems like that the – you go to adjust the cold there and it makes a kind of a creaking noise. And it’s either scalding hot or freezing cold and you always kind of got to sit there and adjust the cold side on the shower there. And it seems to do it more when it starts to get colder out.

    TOM: What you might want to do is think about replacing this with a pressure-balanced valve. A pressure-balance valve maintains the mix between hot and cold, regardless of the pressure in the pipe. So, as you pull more water or less water out of one side, because either the valve is doing that or somebody is using the water somewhere in the house, the flow of water can change but the mix – the balance – between the hot and the cold will not change. And that just makes it a lot more comfortable and frankly, a lot safer for you to use that water.

    And if you’re still using two valves like that, it might be time to upgrade to pressure-balance, because I think you’ll find that that’s going to solve this problem.

    CHAD: Alrighty. Yeah, that’s what I was – that was my next project. I just got finished doing – enclosing my carport. I’m doing an addition and the bathroom is coming next, so …

    TOM: Wow. Well, we’re happy to help you select the next project, Chad.

    CHAD: Hey, I appreciate it.

    TOM: I’m sure your list – you were just wondering what were you going to put on that list and now you’re all set.

    CHAD: That’s right, that’s right. It’s never-ending when you’re a homeowner, right?

    TOM: Yep, absolutely. Chad, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Marcia in Illinois needs some help getting a window unstuck. Tell us about it.

    MARCIA: I have a window over my sink in my kitchen, so I have to lean over the sink to raise this window. And it’s always been extremely hard to get up or down and I just don’t know what to do with it. I think I’ve tried WD-40.

    TOM: Is this a wood window, Marcia?

    MARCIA: Yes, it’s a wood window.

    TOM: So, probably over the years, it’s gotten bigger, swollen in its place. And it’s gotten tighter in the jambs. And I’ll presume with paint, too, over the years that that didn’t make it any better.

    So, why don’t you think about a replacement window? I mean look, we can talk to you about taking this whole window apart and sanding down the jambs and sanding down the sashes and making it easier to use and replacing the cords and the balance and all that work, but I think this would be a good time to treat yourself to a replacement window.

    You don’t have to do all the windows in the house. Yeah, you can buy a double-hung replacement window at a home center today for a couple hundred bucks and it’s a pretty good-quality window. So, you may want to think about replacing just this one window. Or in the alternative, you can pull the trim off, you can take the sashes apart and you could sand them and sand them well. And that will make them a little bit smaller all the way around and make them easier to operate. And of course, also make sure that the balances are working.

    Now, if it’s an old, wood window, you may have cords or chains that go up and you want to make sure that they’re still attached, because that gives you a little bit of assistance as you open and close the window.

    MARCIA: OK. Well, I appreciate your advice. I guess I’ll have to invest in a new window.

    TOM: I think it’s going to be easier than all the work it would take to get the old window working. And I’m all for easy and that’s why I suggest that. OK, Marcia? Good luck. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    And look, if you’ve got these old windows, you can work on them and put 8, 10 hours into a window and sure, it’ll be just as good as new. But why? It’s still going to be an old, drafty, wood window when you can go buy a double-pane, vinyl-clad window – a replacement window – that slips inside the existing opening and just have better energy efficiency and a window that really works, tilts in to clean, the works. Just doesn’t make any sense.

    LESLIE: You’re still going to have to reach over that sink. It’s just going to be easier to work.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. So, what are you working on these last few weeks of winter before you start heading outside in the springtime? Being indoors, perfect time to tackle home improvement projects. We’re here to give you a hand. If you can’t think of one, we will help you find something to do 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: Can always count on you, Leslie, to find a project for me.

    LESLIE: I can always make a project.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, is there snow and ice in your future? Well, if there is, we’ve got your snow-survival checklist, next.

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    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 with your home improvement question. The number here is 888-MONEY-PIT. If we talk to you on the air this hour, you could win a really great prize. It’s the TCP Smart LED Light Bulb Starter Kit.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s basically remote-controlled lighting. Let’s you turn on your lights from any computer, tablet, smartphone, you name it. There’s no confusing timers, there’s no wiring that’s necessary and there’s no more yelling at your kids for leaving the lights on all the time.

    LESLIE: God forbid they have to be in a dark room, guys.

    Seriously, if you want some more information, because it really is a great product, check out the TCP Smart LED Light Bulb Starter Kit at HomeDepot.com. It’s a prize worth $80 but it’s free if we answer your question on the air this hour and pull your name from The Money Pit hard hat.

    TOM: So give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Liam in Iowa has a flooring question. What can we help you with?

    LIAM: I was wondering if I could get away with putting some snap-together flooring, like Pergo, over carpeting in the dining room. Because I don’t want to cover the carpeting up but the dining room is carpeted. And we’d like to have a hard surface underneath the dining-room table so it doesn’t get food and stains and stuff in the carpeting.

    LESLIE: So you’re talking about an area just for the table?

    LIAM: Yeah, just like underneath the dining-room table. Rather than tear up a hole in the carpeting or tear up the carpeting in the dining room, you think I could just snap together flooring over the carpet, under the dining-room table and chairs?

    TOM: I don’t think so, because that type of flooring needs a certain level of consistent support. And there’s special underlayments that are designed to go underneath it and those underlayments have just enough cushion but it gives the flooring material the support it needs.

    LIAM: Mm-hmm. Sure.

    TOM: So putting it on top of carpet, it’s going to be too mushy and the floor joints are going to start to break apart. So, that’s just not going to work. You’re going to have to decide one or the other.

    LIAM: OK. So if I want a hard floor, I’m going to have to tear up the carpeting.

    TOM: Correct.

    LESLIE: Well, yeah, if you’re looking for a hard floor, like a Pergo or a laminate type, you would take up the carpeting, which isn’t a huge project. And depending on what’s under there, you could probably use whatever plywood or base as your subfloor and make it work really well and go together quite easily.

    The other option, if you like that carpeting that’s in there – you’re just concerned about the table and the usage and dirt – you could get an inexpensive sisal or seagrass rug, which is really in style, and layer your carpeting. I’ve seen this done many times. It looks great in rooms like this and you can do a carpet – like an area rug underneath the table and chairs. And if you go with a sisal or seagrass, it’s very stylish. I don’t know what your décor is but it could work and be really awesome.

    LIAM: A friend of mine has an indoor/outdoor rug that looks like black-and-white tile, at their campsite, outside of their Airstream trailer. So maybe something like that, like an indoor/outdoor type of carpet?

    TOM: Yeah, it doesn’t have to be indoor/outdoor. If I had an Airstream trailer, I’d probably have indoor/outdoor carpet for that, too. But in your situation, it’s inside your house.

    LESLIE: Right. In my dining room, I don’t know I would do that.

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: But you can get a sisal rug or a seagrass rug for 100 or 200 bucks, depending on the size of it. And those clean really well, they’re reversible. So if one side gets super-dirty, you just flip it over and use the other side. And then when that one gets trashed, you chuck it and get a new one.

    LIAM: OK, cool. Appreciate it.

    TOM: Well, it’s February and while we’d like to think spring is right around the corner, we are not quite out of the winter woods yet. Some of the coldest temperatures of the year will hit this month, so you want to make sure that you’re prepared.

    LESLIE: Yeah. The first thing that you want to have handy is a big, heavy shovel. Yeah, shovel. That’s really one of your first considerations. And if you already have one and maybe you haven’t replaced your shovel in a while, you might want to consider upgrading because shovel design today is very different. And they’re sort of made to be more helpful to you in the chore of snow shoveling.

    You know, there’s one from Ames True Temper. It’s the Aluminum Combo Snow Shovel and it’s got an ergonomically designed handle, which means it’s kind of got a bend to it. But what’s really cool is that the handle part is wide enough that you can put your gloved hand in it and then the aluminum shovel part itself is sort of curved up at the ends and it’s got a really sharp edge in the front, so it makes it so that you don’t have to bend down. Just a lot easier on your body and we still could be getting a lot more snow, so you want to be prepared.

    TOM: That’s actually a beautifully designed shovel and we picked one up recently. And fortunately, we haven’t had a chance to use it yet. But I know the snow’s coming and I will but I’ve got to say that’s a nice one that the folks at Ames True Temper came up with.

    Alright. So, once the snow is clear, it is next time to tackle the ice. Now, a common mistake that we hear a lot about on this show is folks using rock salt. Why is that a mistake? Because you call us and ask us to fix – how to fix all the holes it leaves in your concrete.

    LESLIE: Come springtime you’re like, “Why do I have all these holes in my concrete?”

    TOM: Yeah. I mean come on, guys, the rock salt is very corrosive. You guys should know that. Don’t use it, especially on plants and sidewalks, because you will not be happy. You will not be happy. A better option is the calcium-chloride pellets. They’re more expensive but they’re non-corrosive and they still work faster than salt.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And also, something else to consider is pick up a can or two of a spray lubricant, like WD-40. It’s really great and helpful if you need to deice a frozen lock in your car or even in your house. And once in a while, just spray your house key anyway and just, as you’re opening the door, lubricate all those parts. It’s really helpful.

    TOM: And there you have it: your snow-survival checklist for home. 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Joe in Pennsylvania is on the line, dealing with some heating issues. Tell us what’s going on at your money pit.

    JOE: We have a furnace; it’s a propane furnace. It’s about five or six years old. It’s pretty good for heating the house but it seems like some of the rooms are hotter than an oven and some of the rooms seem to be cooler. And what happens is there’s no consistency, so I have a hard time with getting everything fluctuated so that everything stays even. And I don’t know how to adjust that so that it would heat the house evenly.

    TOM: OK. So your furnace is kind of dumb in the sense that either it’s on or off, right? So that takes care of the furnace part of it. The problem here is with the duct system; it’s the distribution throughout the house.

    This is a forced-air system, Joe?

    JOE: Yes.

    TOM: So, the duct system is what has to be tweaked here to get the balance just right. Now, the way you adjust a duct system is first by designing it properly, which may be the issue here. And that’s kind of hard to fix without adding additional ductwork to it or rerouting things that you have.

    The second way you adjust it is by controlling the dampers – the duct dampers. Now, duct dampers are going to be mounted usually somewhere close to the furnace or at least at the very beginning of a duct line.

    JOE: OK.

    TOM: And it’s evidenced by a small handle on the side of the duct. And if you look at the nut and bolt that the handle is attached to, there’s going to be sort of a flat slot to it. If the flat is perpendicular to the duct system, it’s off. If it’s going with the duct system, it’s on. And you can adjust the flow with those duct dampers. And the third way you can control this is with the actual registers inside the room, whether they’re opened or closed.

    Now, if those adjustments don’t change anything, the other thing to look at is the return air: where the return is pulling from. The best HVAC-system design has returns in every room. If you don’t have both the supply and return in the same room, you’re going to have a central return: usually a bigger register in the hallway near a bunch of rooms. And if you improve the airflow back to the return, that can improve the balance, as well. How much you do that? Well, it could be something as simple as undercutting doors.

    But this is a balance issue; it has nothing to do with the fact that you have a furnace that’s a propane furnace. It’s going to supply heat as it’s designed to do but the distribution is the issue. And it’s possible, also, that there could be fan adjustments to the fan speed that could impact this. But I think it’s over and above what you can do when we get into the fan work and the multi speeds and that sort of thing. That’s really a job for a service professional. But you could take a look for those duct dampers and see if they exist and see if you can tweak the airflow to make it a bit more comfortable.

    JOE: Alright. I would be happy to do that.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading on over to Michigan where Terry has a water-heater question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    TERRY: I was wanting to know if $800 is a reasonable amount of money to pay to have a hot-water tank replaced. But actually, the tank was free and the labor was free and the plumber said that you need to pay $800 for parts only to replace a hot-water tank.

    TOM: So, he’s saying the labor is free but the water heater is 800 bucks? Is it a regular, standard, gas-fired water heater?

    TERRY: The water heater itself was also free because it was a warranty item.

    TOM: That sounds pretty ridiculous for a warranty repair. If the labor is free, then he was already paid for a good portion of the work it took to take the tank out. Now, if he had to add an additional part – I don’t quite understand his explanation. But if he had to add something additional or re-plumb something, $800 is a bit of a crazy price for a little bit of additional plumbing work, considering he was paid for the bulk of the project through the warranty. That sounds like you’re getting gouged.

    TERRY: Right. We’ve already contacted the warranty company and the plumber, as well.

    TOM: Yep. Right.

    TERRY: And the warranty company says, “Contact the plumber.” The plumber says, “Contact the warranty company.” Do we really have any recourse at all to try and recoup some of that money?

    TOM: So you’ve already paid this?

    TERRY: Correct.

    TOM: Well, unfortunately, what I think you’re going to have to do is take them to small-claims court. And I would take both of them to small-claims court. Both. Because then they’ll fight it out amongst themselves, because it’s going to be more expensive to defend it than it is to settle it with you.

    TERRY: OK. Well, I thank you very much for taking the time to give me a call back.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Terry. And I’m sorry that happened to you. Good luck with that project.

    LESLIE: Hey, do you ever wish that your bathroom was warmer or cleaner or even safer for your little kids? Well, with these high-tech bathroom upgrades, you can get all of the above and more. We’re going to share the latest in bathroom technology, coming up.

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And it may be cold outside now but that’s why it’s the perfect time to think spring. Spring projects that is. The time from concept to actually starting a spring project, especially if you’re a procrastinator like us, it can be a month or more. So why not start planning now and be ready for your project to break ground on that first beautiful, warm weekend? Need help taking that first step? Pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Pam in Missouri is on the line with a lighting question. How can we help you today?

    PAM: I have fluorescent lights in my kitchen and two other rooms and they are recessed into the ceiling. They’re the kind like you would put maybe into a shop: those 3- or 4-foot-long tubes, T8 bulbs that I hear are going away?

    TOM: Yep. Yes. Uh-huh.

    PAM: What can I do?

    TOM: So, are you having trouble finding the bulbs? Is that what you’re concerned about?

    PAM: I am not now but I’m – hear that they will be not used anymore.

    TOM: Yeah. But they last so darn long. Why don’t you just go shop online and buy a case of them and call it a day? I mean really. Yeah, they’ll be harder to find but they’re going to be available, because a lot – there’s a lot of industrial folks that use those in offices and that sort of thing. So I wouldn’t fret too much about that.

    Listen, if you want to change your lights at some point, then you can plan that project. But I wouldn’t tell you to rip out and remove all your lighting fixtures now just because you’re worried about a supply problem. I’d just go pick up a case of these things. They last forever. And then put the project off until you’re ready to do some real remodeling.

    PAM: I’d rather do that because, otherwise, I’d have a big hole in the ceiling that would have to be patched.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. It’s a bigger project for you because they’re built-in. So you’re going to have to take them out, you’re going to have to drywall over the holes. It’s a big job, so – no, I would just pick up a case of the bulbs and live with it for a while, OK?

    PAM: Great. That’s easy for me. Thanks.

    TOM: Yeah, they’re not too expensive. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, high-tech remodeling renovations have improved just about every room in our homes and there are a slew of these products available for your bathroom. From touchless faucets to towel warmers, these modern marvels help us save energy, save water and make things just a little more convenient.

    TOM: With us to talk through some of the latest innovations is This Old House host Kevin O’Connor.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys. How are you?

    TOM: So This Old House has always been on the cutting edge of innovations in the projects that you choose, especially when it comes to bathrooms. We’ve come a long, long way since the outhouse.

    KEVIN: Yeah. It’s a good thing, too, right? Does anyone have any fond memories of outhouses? Did you know that there’s a museum to outhouses down in Louisiana?

    TOM: Of course there is.

    KEVIN: Yep. I’ve been there.

    LESLIE: Oh, geez.

    KEVIN: Yeah. Yep. The tickets are free.

    TOM: I bet, right?

    KEVIN: No, it definitely has come a long way. And I think, you know, one of the things that we’ve noticed is some of these innovations that we’re seeing in the house, in residential construction, actually migrate over from commercial construction. Which is why you’re seeing things like touchless faucets. Imagine when you went into the public restrooms, they’re everywhere.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Because if you’re a germaphobe, you might as well be a germaphobe in your own bathroom.

    TOM: Yeah.

    KEVIN: If you’re stopping on the parkway or the turnpike, you probably don’t want to touch the faucet. But yes, right? So you sort of develop that sensibility and now it’s available in your house where you can just wave your hand over it or put an elbow to the actual spout and turn on and off.

    LESLIE: Yeah, I like it in a kitchen.

    KEVIN: A pretty good feature.

    TOM: And it’s not only the bathrooms, it’s also the kitchen. Delta has one now where you wave your hand over the top and it comes on, you wave your hand again over the top and it goes off. And if you bring a pot up to it close with both hands, it will actually go on for as long as the pot is sort of in front of the faucet.

    KEVIN: Who doesn’t like that, right?

    TOM: Yeah, exactly.

    KEVIN: So, they’re happening with faucets, bathrooms or kitchens. They’re also happening with toilets. There are a lot of things out there right now. KOHLER has just introduced a toilet that actually has touchless-flush technology. So, you just have to wave your hand over the back and it will flush for you. Another thing is they actually have lighted toilets, alright? We just showed off one of these recently. Two lights. One of them is a location light so you can find the toilet as you walk into the bathroom.

    LESLIE: Oh, not an aiming sensor for my small boys?

    KEVIN: That’s the second one. And then the second light is a – they call a “task light.”

    TOM: You’re coming in for a landing.

    KEVIN: But instead of a night light in the bathroom, why not have the toilet seat up so you always know exactly how to find it?

    LESLIE: All of these seem like an invitation for both of my boys to put their hands in the toilet.

    KEVIN: Hmm. No, maybe we should turn the lights off.

    LESLIE: Great innovations. Just not for a six or a two-year-old.

    TOM: Alright. Enough toilet talk. Let’s talk about the shower right now. There are also some innovations in showers and baths, including one device that actually prevents shower shock, where you actually get an alert in terms of shower temperature.

    KEVIN: I think the shower is the new luxury destination in the American home it seems. There are lots of gadgets and gizmos that can go into a shower.

    And as you point out, Tom, there’s something out there where the showerhead will actually display the water temperature, even as it changes, so that you can see exactly what the temperature is before you stick your head underneath there so that you do not stick your head under some either cold or really hot water, causing some discomfort.

    TOM: And that’s the Delta product; it’s called the Temp2O.

    Now, you’re also going to see audio systems built into bathrooms.

    KEVIN: Can you imagine listening to your favorite tunes in the morning when you’re in the shower? But yes, speakers that are actually in there, that are actually playing tunes in the shower so that you never have to be in a room where you’re not being …

    LESLIE: Entertained?

    KEVIN: Entertained, absolutely. And we’ve even seen chromotherapy where the lights change so that they can produce different moods when you’re in a bath or in a shower. So lots of innovation coming into these spaces.

    There are also things like – well, heated floors are something that we’ve done all the time on the show, where you put radiant underneath either electric or a water-based system that’s hydronic. But also, towel warmers that are heated up right out of the gate so that you never have to pull a chilly towel off the rack. As I say, the new luxury destination.

    TOM: You can have a lot of these options without spending a lot of money. I mean just kind of adding one thing at a time.

    KEVIN: Yeah. I think if you’re doing a bathroom remodel, you probably want to plan them all out. We’ve seen some very cool grab bars that you want to be thinking about where do they go and where are the controls for these types of things. But yeah, you could sort of add them incrementally.

    LESLIE: You know, the thing that I find interesting is that – I’ve been working with a client and they’re fixated on having one of those Dyson super-hand dryers in the bath. Not like the fancier one that you can get, because Dyson actually makes one that’s integrated into the faucet. So you wash your hands and then you sort of step back and then put your hands under it in a different way and the air comes out, which is a great technology. Oh, no, they want like the one that you see in your local store with the big, yellow – dip your hands in here, make some ruckus.

    TOM: Blue jets, big air jets.

    LESLIE: Yeah. So people really want this stuff in their house.

    KEVIN: And a perfect example of that migration from commercial space to residential space, because we’re used to them now in those commercial restrooms and bathrooms.

    LESLIE: Right. God forbid you use a towel.

    TOM: It’s so unsanitary. Other people may have touched that.

    Kevin O’Connor, great advice. Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Pleasure to be here, guys.

    LESLIE: Alright. Catch the current season of This Old House andAsk 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 GMC. GMC, we are professional grade.

    Well, as the temperatures drop, water freezes. And if that water is inside your plumbing, well, that could be a problem. We’ll have tips to help you prevent frozen pipes, after this.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you might just be the fortunate caller we draw out of The Money Pit hard hat to award the prize this hour, which is the TCP Smart LED Light Bulb Starter Kit. The kit’s bulbs use 85 percent less energy compared to the standard incandescent light bulbs for some serious monthly savings.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And the TCP Smart LED Light Bulb Starter Kit is going to let you control your home’s lighting from any place at any time. You can learn more about it at HomeDepot.com. And it’s a prize worth 80 bucks but free to one caller that we talk to on the air this hour.

    TOM: You know the number: 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, Frozen might have been a popular movie but it’s not nearly as fun when that phenomenon happens to your pipes. And it’s not singing “Let it Go,” it’s singing “Let’s Put This Water All Over Your Entire Darn House.” And anybody who’s gone through it knows what an expensive hassle frozen pipes can be.

    TOM: Yep, that’s right. So what you want to do is reduce the chance of yours icing over. And to do that, the first thing is to try leaving the doors open to cabinets that are located against outside walls. So, for example, if your kitchen or bathroom faucets freeze and they’re on an outside wall, leave the bath vanity or the kitchen vanity doors open. The warmth of the house will get into those cabinets and that can warm up those high-risk water lines.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Next, you can try to bundle up your pipes, as well. You can use foam tubes or fiberglass tubes or even fiberglass pipe wrap to insulate that water and heating lines in those unheated spaces, like crawlspaces or attics and basements. And make sure you seal the drafts in those unheated places, as well, to keep those cold temperatures out.

    Expanding foam sealant, like a GREAT STUFF, is really good for sealing weirdly shaped spaces because it does expand. Only thing you have to watch out for is do not spray in too much because it does expand greatly. That’s why they call it GREAT STUFF.

    TOM: Hence the term “expanding foam.”

    LESLIE: Right.

    TOM: Now, listen. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you’re still going to get frozen pipes, especially if the pipe is in an area where perhaps you can’t correct it. Like let’s say it comes up in an exterior wall. In that case, you might want to consider rerunning the pipe, actually re-plumbing it.

    You know, we had a sink that was like that in our house, in a really old house, and the pipe came up the exterior wall. And we certainly insulated the pipes underneath, in the crawlspace, but there was one part of it we just couldn’t get to. So we ended up just rerunning the pipe up through a different location. Actually brought it through – if you can imagine a dishwasher, which is typically next to a sink, we brought it up through the dishwasher cabinet and across the back of the dishwasher and into the cabinet. And once we did that, we kind of took it out of that area that was getting super-cold because of the exterior wall location. And haven’t had a frozen pipe since.

    So, worst case scenario, you want to think about moving those pipes because you don’t want to let that pipe freeze and break. It will expand, it will crack. And interestingly enough, hot-water pipes will freeze and break before cold-water pipes. The reason for that is because when hot water is heated in the water heater, it loses all of its air bubbles, which give it no sort of flex. When that water freezes, it presses right up against the pipe and it expands it and cracks it first. Cold water, when it freezes, still has a lot of air bubbles in it that kind of acts as a cushion, so you get a little more tolerance with that in the pipes.

    But regardless, you really want to make sure you’re not going to have that happen to you because it’s a really expensive repair. So hope that helps you out. If you have those frozen-pipe issues, do what you can to prevent it, right now, before it gets any colder. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Margie in Maryland needs some help with a kitchen incident gone awry. What happened?

    MARGIE: What happened is – it’s sort of like a barbecue gone bad inside my house.

    TOM: OK.

    MARGIE: I had some deer meat in a big pot on the stove. It was – it had a cover on it. And it – I stepped out for a while and I came back and there was smoke everywhere in my house. And we opened everything; we opened all the windows and doors and all of that. And what I need is to find out how to get rid of the smoke smell. It is just disgusting; it’s terrible.

    And I – we’ve done what we can. I’m washing – my poor washing machine is going nuts. I just wash, wash, wash everything. And we Febrezed on the furniture and – but my wood furniture I don’t know what to do about and my walls and my painted woodwork. Because the day that it happened, I washed up the floor with vinegar and water. But it seems like the longer it goes, that it’s getting harder on the surfaces that it’s touched. And I just need some help to figure out how to clean it up, especially on the wood furniture, the walls and the painted woodwork.

    TOM: Well, on the furniture, on the woodwork, I think something like Murphy’s Oil Soap would be a good choice. That’s a mild solution that smells pleasant and it’s designed specifically to clean wood surfaces.

    However, I suspect that the source of most of the smell is going to be in – because of materials that are harder to clean, like fabrics, rugs, couches, upholstery, the pillows, that sort of thing. And for those, you really need to have a professional company come in and clean them. There are companies like – I think ServiceMaster is one of them that specializes in fire-and-smoke cleaning and water cleanup. And they have the right equipment with the right types of chemicals to take the odors out of those sorts of things. What you can do is clean those hard surfaces on your own.

    As far as the walls are concerned, I would mix up a fairly weak TSP solution – trisodium phosphate. You can pick that up in the painting section of any hardware store or home center and wash the walls down with that. OK?

    MARGIE: Yes. Thank you so very, very much. I really appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, do those cold drafts have you thinking about buying a new front door? Well, find out what to look for before you buy, after this.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by QUIKRETE Concrete & Cement products. QUIKRETE, what America is made of. Like us on Facebook and visit online at www.QUIKRETE.com for product information and easy, step-by-step project videos.

    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: So, are all your home improvement projects cutting into your radio time? You can stay in the loop with us and make sure you’re doing the job right. Just get our latest show delivered to you each week by podcast. It’s all online; it’s free at MoneyPit.com. You can subscribe right there or through iTunes and also grab the feeds for new articles, videos, blogs, you name it, online at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. And while you’re online you can post your question in the Community section, just like Annie from Seattle did. And she writes: “I need to have a new front entry and storm door installed. I’m not sure if I should go with steel or fiberglass. The door faces west and it gets hot between the entry and storm door. I’m concerned about durability and maintenance. Any suggestions?”

    TOM: Yeah. First of all, you should definitely go with fiberglass, because fiberglass doesn’t rust and it doesn’t dent. And actually, it’s more energy-efficient than steel. And also, you don’t need a storm door. That’s right. There’s no need for a storm door when you’re using a good-quality fiberglass door, because the door is just that insulated; it’s just that good.

    What you could install is a screen door. How about that? It’s kind of a throwback, right? Before we had storm doors, we just had screen doors? Well, what’s old is new. All you really need is a screen door for that ventilation. You do not need a storm door.

    So go with fiberglass and go with a screen door and you’ll be good to go.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a question here from Bob in Michigan who writes: “I’ve just moved to a colder area of the state.”

    TOM: Isn’t the entire state of Michigan cold?

    LESLIE: No, I think when you go up north, it gets way colder.

    TOM: Maybe even more colder, huh? OK.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: It’s relative, right?

    LESLIE: I mean I know that people are from like the Upper Peninsula. It gets crazy-cold up there.

    Alright. Well, anyway, he says that – “What can I do to keep my apartment’s heating costs down while staying warm?”

    TOM: Well, it’s always tricky because you don’t own the heating system. But the things that you could do would be to make sure you have a programmable thermostat. Now, if there’s not one there, they’re not hard to install and you could always switch it back out when you leave. You just want to make sure that you know what you’re doing when you put it together.

    Also, make sure that your heat registers are not obstructed. So don’t put your furniture near it, because then it’s got to work harder and therefore cost you more to do the same thing. You want to maximize your passive solar energy, which basically means keeping the drapes open during the day, especially on the west end, south sides of the house.

    And if you want to insulate that space further, you could consider replacing the shades with the cellular shades that have sort of that honeycomb structure that actually helps keep that area quite warm, as well.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. You know what else works?

    And I know you’re going to laugh at me, Tom, but yes, I’ve actually done this before. And it’s kind of a trick that I learned from my TV days whenever we’d put gel on the windows, which is like sort of a tinted plastic that would make it so that the sunlight didn’t affect the filming. But that really does help to sort of insulate the glass itself if you don’t have the best-quality windows. And I actually tried it with – you’re going to laugh at me – bubble wrap?

    TOM: OK. Well, conceptually I get it, I get it, that could work, yeah.

    LESLIE: So I sprayed the window glass – I sprayed the glass with water and then I just put the bubble wrap over it, on the side that tends to be really drafty on my house and it made a huge difference. So laugh all you want. It’s working.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. That’s all the time we have this hour on The Money Pit. We hope we’ve given you some great tips, ideas and inspirations to tackle the projects in your house. Remember, you can reach us, 24/7, at that same phone number. If we’re not in the studio, we will call you back the next time we are.

    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 2014 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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