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Keeping Trees Alive Through Winter, How to Make Sure Your Mattress Isn’t Making You Sick, and Adding Pro Ranges to Your Home Kitchen

  • Transcript

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we are here to help you. This is all about your home, your house, your money pit. Need some tips to take that from house to home to castle? Well, pick up the phone and call us at 888-MONEY-PIT, because that is what we are here to do.

    We’ve got a great show planned for you. Coming up this hour, it is the ultimate kitchen upgrade, not to mention very nice eye-candy. We’re talking about a commercial kitchen range. But the question is: can your kitchen handle that kind of a machine? We’re going to have tips when we get advice from This Old House heating expert Richard Trethewey, in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And with Christmas trees behind us, it’s time to think about the outdoor trees that are going to be blooming this spring. Or will they? We’ve got some tips on keeping your trees alive through wintertime.

    TOM: And here’s a nice thought that we’re closing down the doors and windows and sealing ourselves inside for the winter: could your mattress be making you sick? It very well might be but we’ve got tips on how to keep it and you healthy.

    LESLIE: And one caller this hour is going to win a SideWinder Drencher Shower from Waterpik. It’s an innovative design that will adjust to any height, which really makes it the perfect showerhead for families with kids.

    TOM: So pick up the phone and call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’re ready to go. Are you? The number, again, is 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Heading out to New Jersey where John has some issues going on in the attic. Tell us about it.

    JOHN: I have the breather up on top of my roof. It’s leaks, comes down into the attic. And I have a little container up there and sometimes, I don’t get up there in time and it’s kind of messing up my ceiling.

    TOM: Well, that’s not good.

    JOHN: Well, I’ve gone up there and I’ve had that can of – I forget what you call it. You spray it and it’s like a rubber whatever. I’ve sprayed all around the metal flashing and it’s still leaking. I don’t see any holes anywhere else. There’s no missing shingles. I don’t know what else it could be.

    TOM: OK. So let me just – clarify for me: when you call this an “attic breather” or “vent,” what are we talking about? Is it a square hole in your roof with a vent over it? Is it a ridge vent that goes down the peak of the roof? Or are you talking about the plumbing vent that comes up through the roof?

    JOHN: No. It’s almost up in the – about midway. There’s one on one side of the roof and one on the other.

    TOM: OK. So it’s like a square vent?

    JOHN: Right. And there’s no – the opening – it’s on an angle but I don’t know if it’s enough of an angle when the wind drives the rain in a certain direction.

    TOM: Yeah. That’s what I was thinking. You may have some wind-driven rain in here. And what my advice would be to you is – you have a ridge that goes down sort of the – like a peak of the roof that goes down the middle of the house?

    JOHN: No. It goes across. It runs horizontally.

    TOM: What kind of roof style do you have? Is this a standard Colonial house or – what is it? A ranch?

    JOHN: Small ranch.

    TOM: OK. So here’s what I would do. You may very well be getting wind-driven rain inside that. What I might suggest is – that’s actually not the best kind of vent. And there’s an opportunity for you to improve your ventilation here in your attic space, which’ll actually make it cooler in the summertime and drier in the wintertime, which makes your insulation more effective.

    And to do that, what I would do is I would remove those square vents, patch the hole and re-shingle over that. And I would replace that with a ridge vent that goes down most of the peak of the roof. The ridge vent’s not likely to leak if it’s properly installed. And that will open up that space to more ventilation, which will have the benefits that we talked about.

    JOHN: Wow. OK, OK. That’s my next project.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Sue from Ohio on the line. Welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    SUE: Yes. We have a wooden wheelchair ramp built for my father and it’s with the treated lumber. And wanted an idea or what product we could use to kind of keep the ice and the snow off of there without damaging the wood.

    TOM: You know, there are different types of salts that can be effective as to prevent snow and ice. What you want to do, though, is make sure that you not use sodium chloride or a rock salt. You want to use calcium chloride. Calcium chloride is less corrosive. It has less of an impact on plants and on pets but does just as good a job of keeping the snow and the ice off.

    What I would suggest is you take this calcium chloride and you mix it up with playground sand – the kind of sand that you might put in a sandbox – and create sort of a mixture that you can keep handy so that whenever you do get a little bit of ice and snow, you can spread the salt/sand mixture down and keep that ramp clear.

    SUE: OK. Great. Thank you.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, Sue. 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, let us know what you are working on over at your house, home, apartment. Whatever it is, we want to give you a hand. We’re here for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Coming up, is there a chance your mattress is making you sick? Well, sleep easy. There are steps you can take to keep it bacteria-free. That and more when The Money Pit returns, 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: Give us a call, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you’ll get the answer to your home improvement question. Plus, this hour, we’re giving away a very cool prize. It’s the SideWinder Drencher from Waterpik. It uses an innovative, auto-locking, high/low arm to adjust the spray height. You simply switch to a lower level for the kids or adjust in the middle to rinse without getting your hair wet.

    It’s the perfect for everyone in the family. It’s valued at 69.98 at The Home Depot but we’re giving one away, right now, to one caller drawn at random. So pick up the phone and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Now we’ve got Stuart in Louisiana on the line with a water-heating question. What can we do for you today?

    STUART: Yes. I was curious about a point-of-use hot-water heater. I’d like to install an electric one and I only have one bath, one sink and a kitchen sink. And I was wondering if I could – you could recommend a size that I could use that could take care of all three uses.

    TOM: So one bath and the kitchen sink and it’s going to be electric? You could use a 40-gallon water heater for that, Stuart. That’s a fairly minimal demand. And what I would suggest is that – since you’re installing this, I would put it on a timer so that you only run it the few hours that you need it during the day, which we would be in the morning when you get up and get through your showers and then in the evenings again for dishes and that sort of thing and then when you need to take care of your evening bathing. You don’t need to run electric water heater 24/7. You really only need to run it maybe 8, 10 hours out of the day. And the rest of the days, you can leave it off and that saves you a lot of money.

    STUART: Right, right. Well, I was interested in one of those little compact units that …

    TOM: So you’re talking about a tankless electric?

    STUART: Yes, sir.

    TOM: Yeah. Haven’t seen a lot of good data on those saving you money. A tankless, gas-fired water heater is extremely efficient. A tankless electric water heater is not so much.

    Now, there is one other way to go and that’s called a heat-pump water heater. Uses the same technology that you would have in a heat pump that you might use to cool and heat your house. But it’s used for heating the water. That, however, is very expensive and I think that the return on investment would probably not happen for you.

    If I was you and I had this minimal need for one bathroom and a kitchen, I would put in a very inexpensive electric water heater – 40 gallons, with a 240-volt timer – set it to meet my needs from terms on when I want the water warm. It’ll still stay warm during the day, by the way, when it’s not on. It’s just that it won’t be heating to its full 110 to 120 degrees all that time. And stop right there, because I think you’re not going to get the return on investment if you try to put an electric tankless or even a heat-pump electric water heater.

    STUART: OK. Well, I thank you for your suggestion.

    LESLIE: Chris in Arkansas is on the line with a painting question. How can we help you today?

    CHRIS: Well, I bought a house and it has two bathrooms. And the tile – sink and tubs are baby pink and baby blue.

    TOM: What’s wrong with that?

    CHRIS: Well, it’s not exactly what I had in mind. But I was wondering if you can successfully – until I get to redo the bathrooms, if you can successively paint over them without it looking terrible.

    LESLIE: Yes and no. I mean you can. There’s quite an extensive process to it to make sure that you get proper adhesion and it sticks very well. However, whenever you’re dealing with a painted surface and water is involved and areas that you have to clean, as well, you’re going to get some wear and tear. So I don’t think it’s the best idea.

    There are kits that you can buy online. Basically, if you want to do it without a kit – and of course, then you don’t want to paint the grout. But a lot of people do paint the grout and then that looks weird, also. So you’ve got to think about all of these things. But you’re going to want to use a very, very durable oil-based primer. And of course, you’ve got to clean those tiles very, very well before you even think about putting a drop of primer on them.

    TOM: And I think Sherwin-Williams actually makes a primer that is super, super adhesive. And the reason I know about this is because the way they demo’d it was by painting it on tile and then putting a second layer of paint on it. And even though it’s a really adhesive paint, I agree with you completely that eventually, in a very short period of time – especially if you’re cleaning the surface – you’re going to start wearing through it.

    CHRIS: OK. And like I said, not knowing if I could or not, I just was thinking if I could buy myself some time and just paint it until I can redo – or maybe it’s sounding like I should just wait until I can redo.

    TOM: Well, you know, the bad news about those old tile bathrooms is that they have these very traditional, 1960s-like colors. The good news is that the tile quality is usually really good and the way it’s installed is really solid. And that’s why, if at all possible, maybe you could think about decorating around this tile.

    So you said that you had – is it pink and blue?

    CHRIS: Yes.

    LESLIE: With the pink, I think we’re seeing such a big trend in pink really making a comeback in bathroom spaces. You could go overload on the pink, you can add in florals, you can add in different tones of pink. You can sort of tone in down with neutral beiges and grays and hints of gold and sort of make it glamorous and more girly. There are ways you can do that.

    Blue tile, I feel like, is just a poor choice. Blue tile is blue tile.

    CHRIS: I totally agree with you.

    LESLIE: Maybe everything else goes super clean. But I just feel like if you attempt to paint the tile, you’re going to be sad in the long run. And it’s going to – it will perhaps motivate you to do the permanent work more quickly.

    CHRIS: OK. Well, exactly that and that’s why I called. I just wasn’t sure if there was some miracle cure that I – “Hey, this works great” or not. And I am trying my best at decorating around but the pink, yes, has worked better than the blue.

    TOM: At least we solved half the problem, Christine.

    CHRIS: I appreciate it. I appreciate it so much.

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

    Well, for all the time we spend on them, most of us give our mattresses little to no TLC, which can mean a shortened lifespan and even the risk of illness.

    LESLIE: That’s right. If you don’t take the steps to keep it clean, you could be sleeping on a bed of bacteria. So you want to keep germs away by investing in a mattress cover. Now, not only will a cover protect your mattress from dust and dust mites, it will actually ward off bacteria.

    TOM: Yes. And if something spills on your mattress, here’s a tip: don’t soak it. Instead, spray on a solution of mild dish soap and water, then scrub it with a soft brush and blot it with a dry towel and simply let it dry.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Now, every three months, you want to alternate between rotating and flipping your mattress.

    Now, if you’re going to be going on vacation, why not let your mattress do the same? Strip your bed before you leave, give your mattress a nice dose of fresh air. It’s going to sanitize it, the sunlight really helps a ton, just when it gets onto the mattress itself.

    TOM: And one thing you don’t want to do is to use dry-cleaning chemicals on your mattress. The chemicals in these spot removers can be harmful to the fabric and the underlying materials.

    888-666-3974. If you’ve got a makeover project on your to-do list, let’s put it on ours. Call us, right now, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: William is on the line with a gutter question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    WILLIAM: Hi. We recently purchased a home that – it’s surrounded by a lot of pine trees. So I’m getting a lot of pine needles on my roof and in my gutters. And it’s only been a few weeks and already I’m tired of climbing up there to clean them. Do you have any suggestions for keeping them off the roof and keeping the gutters flowing?

    TOM: Well, we can’t fight gravity, so you’re going to always have them on your roof.

    I will give you a couple suggestions. First of all, as you probably know, there’s a wide range of gutter covers out there. And the type that are sort of screen-like are the type that are most likely to clog, because the pine needles will lay out across the top, they’ll get stuck in there and you’ll just be very miserable. What I think the best type – is the ones that are continuous gutter covers that go all across the top of the gutter, where the pine needles have a chance to actually wash over the top and let the water fall in through the principles of surface tension.

    Now, the bad news is that those are expensive. They’re so expensive that you may find that removing your traditional 4-inch gutters and replacing them with 6-inch gutters – which will not clog with pine needles because everything is much bigger, the throats for the downspouts are bigger, the gutters are bigger, they can take more water, more flow – might be the best way to go. So that’s kind of your option. I would either use a gutter cover that covers the entire top of the gutter or I would take out the 4-inch gutters and I would put in 6-inch gutters, which is what I did at my house and just never looked back.

    WILLIAM: OK. Well, thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’re heading out to Wisconsin where Kimmy has a question about mold. What can we do for you today?

    KIMMY: It’s on the walls and it started at the bottom of the wall. It’s black mold and in some areas, it’s somewhat green but most of it is black. And I was trying to get the basement refurnished. And when the guy came and started it, he had to stop because the mold is coming through the panel and you can still see it at the bottom.

    TOM: Yeah. Now, this is a home that you own, Kimmy?

    KIMMY: No. I’m renting.

    TOM: You’re renting it. OK. So, this is the landlord’s problem; this isn’t your problem. And it’s a potentially serious problem, depending on how much of it is there. That type of mold that you describe is what’s known as Stachybotrys: that sort of blackish, greenish mold. And in some cases, it can be – cause an allergic-like effect on people. Could make you not feel very well. And people that are really sensitive to molds can get super sick around it.

    Removing it is possible but there’s a process to it. It’s not just a matter of tearing out the old walls or scrubbing it away. Because if you do it incorrectly, you can release those mold spores and they float around the air. And it can get up into the parts of the house that don’t have mold and kind of contaminate it.

    So, I would take some pictures of it. I would send a letter to the landlord and let him know what’s going on. And he’s got to address it, because this is a potentially very serious problem. You can’t let it continue.

    KIMNY: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I noticed that since I moved here – asthma runs in my family but I never had asthma. And now I have asthma, I have bronchitis.

    TOM: You may be living in a sick house. Your dog seems quite happy, though.

    KIMMY: You know, they tried – I even – they even said that it could be dog hair.

    TOM: No, no. If you’ve got that kind of mold, you’ve got a serious problem. You need to put him on notice that they’ve got to fix it.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Alex from Illinois on the line with a plumbing question. What can we do for you?

    ALEX: I’ve got a septic issue. From the house to the tank, I think the line may be cracked in the middle of it. But the problem is my house is on a slab. And as far as I know, the pipes are in the slab.

    TOM: What I would do is two things. First of all, you need to have a drain-camera inspection done to confirm what you’re dealing with. So, there is a drain camera that looks kind of like a snake. And it can go 50, 100, 200 feet in the line and can actually give you a pretty decent picture of what’s going on there.

    And so, let’s assume that you confirm that somewhere under that slab, there’s a crack in the pipe. There’s a way to insert a liner into that pipe. It’s kind of like a fiberglass sock, if that makes sense, that gets inserted into the pipe and then filled up with water to kind of press it against the side and the water is released. And it basically kind of creates a pipe inside of a pipe and uses the old pipe as sort of the structure. But it will stop things from kind of permanently getting in there. Sometimes when you have a crack in a pipe, you get roots that form in there that will clog things up and that kind of stuff. Or you get a rough edge where waste gets trapped. So with this sort of fiberglass sock in there, that solves that.

    So that’s the way you repair a pipe that goes under something critical, like your house or your driveway or around your pool or something of that nature. But those are the two things you need.

    Now you’re going to have to do some work here to figure out where – what the company is best to work with on that. But I know that some of the big plumbing companies that do drain-cleaning will have this technology. But the first thing is figure out what you’re dealing with, determine if you’ve got a crack or not or maybe it’s something simpler to fix, OK?

    ALEX: I appreciate it very much.

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

    LESLIE: Up next, they’re popular upgrades for foodies and home chefs. But installing a pro range into a residential kitchen isn’t always safe or a piece of cake. We’re going to tell you what to ask before you buy one, when we come back.

    JONATHAN: Hey this is Jonathan Scott, host of HGTV’s Property Brothers. And you’re listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Lutron’s new Maestro Occupancy-Sensing Switch. Never ask “Who left the lights on?” again. Starting at around $20, this motion-sensing light switch turns the lights on automatically when you walk into a room and off when you leave and works with all types of light bulbs. Learn more at LutronSensors.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: Well, winter is the season when most home invasions take place but you can keep your home safe, even without a home security system or a big budget. We’ve got cheap home security tricks and ideas posted on our home page, right now, at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: Now we’re heading out to Washington State where Dan is looking to turn his garage into a bed-and-breakfast.

    Dan, what is going on?

    DAN: Well, I just figured there’s so many websites where you can do – like Airbnb. And I figured, well, why not? Just put in a couple of bucks and then put in there a kitchen. And there’s already a bathroom in between the house and the garage. Just kind of make a new door. So we got it all figured out. I just want to know: am I going to run into any city problems or ordinances (inaudible at 0:20:36)?

    TOM: Very, very likely, yes. If your city has the most basic building codes and ordinances, I would say definitely yes. You do not want to tackle this project without checking in with the appropriate authorities, because there’s a lot of ways that you would get yourself in trouble here. And I’d hate to see the building inspector come in after you dumped a bunch of money in this and tell you you’ve got to rip it all out.

    So, I admire your energy here and want to tackle this project but you can’t just build a bed-and-breakfast or convert your house into it without making sure it’s consistent with the local zoning laws, Dan.

    DAN: Got you. Got you. OK.

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

    LESLIE: Well, few things define an upscale kitchen like a commercial range. With those heavy, cast-iron grates, beefy knobs and high-BTU burners, the pro-style range has become the modern-day hearth: a focal point in the home’s main gathering place.

    TOM: Of course, a serious stove can boost your cooking powers, too, not to mention your home’s resale value. So what do you need to know if you’re looking for one of these brawny beauties in your kitchen? Well, This Old House plumbing-and-heating contractor Richard Trethewey is here to tell us.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Hi, Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: So we’re seeing more and more of these. They’re really popular and they’re not just their cooking power. I mean homeowners just love the way they look.

    RICHARD: They really do add a very dramatic look to their kitchen. Everybody wants to think they’re Wolfgang Puck and this is really the chance. But an actual commercial range, a true commercial range, is not designed for a residential kitchen. You really have to get a pro-style range because it’s got additional insulation. The commercial ones don’t have enough insulation. They worry about the standby loss from catching kitchen cabinets on fire.

    LESLIE: Oh, wow.

    TOM: Right. Because it’s just so hot, it doesn’t stop that heat in a cabinet body like it does in a conventional range.

    RICHARD: Right. That’s right.

    TOM: It goes right through.

    RICHARD: That’s right. In a kitchen, you want to keep – in a commercial kitchen, you don’t care because there’s plenty of ventilation.

    LESLIE: And everything’s metal.

    RICHARD: That’s right. A pro-style range is scaled to fit the standard depth of counters. That’s the difference. They can fit in a regular, 24-inch-deep counter but they have beefed-up insulation. But they also have burners that are crazy powerful. You know, they can blast out 18,000 to 25,000 BTUs, where a basic stove range might have 12,000 BTUS as their biggest burner.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: You can burn your dinner that much quicker.

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

    LESLIE: Well, I think it’s interesting, too, because when you’re looking at a pro-style range or oven, they’re so much larger. So you really have to consider that you’ve got the space for this. I’ve seen them as wide as 5 feet – 60 inches.

    RICHARD: Right. The standard range in America is a 30-inch range. And so these pro-styles come in 30, 36, 48 and 60. That’s a 5-footer.

    TOM: Wow.

    RICHARD: That is a lot of burner and it really looks kind of imposing if all you want to do is cook a pot of tea on that big burner.

    LESLIE: Right.

    RICHARD: So it means you have a lot of burners, you’ve got a lot of cooktop options. They’ve got unbelievable choices, with griddles and side grills and boiling pots and stuff like that. A lot of cool stuff on it, though.

    TOM: You also have a choice of fuel ranges on this, right? It could be gas or electric or combinations, right?

    RICHARD: Yeah. Most of them are gas and many of the great chefs will tell you they want to cook on the cooktop with and use electric for their precision in the ovens. But most of them are going to be gas and they’re going to be either natural gas or propane. Some of them are dual-fueled, where you’re going to have gas and electric.

    LESLIE: Yeah, I’ve got that at home. I’ve got a gas cooktop and the electric convection, because it really does help give you a more uniform cooking temperature throughout.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    LESLIE: So it really helps to cook things more evenly on their proper cook temperatures. But I think it’s so important that – we’ve discussed this as far as ventilation. You’ve really got to make sure that you’re balancing the air that’s coming out and the air that’s going in.

    RICHARD: My goodness. That is the biggest part of this story. Now, imagine you’ve got a nice, tight house. You’ve insulated the house beautifully. And you’ve got bath fans in each bathroom and each one of those bath fans will pull 50 cubic feet per minute.

    We just did a scene the other day on This Old House where I took a cardboard box and showed to the American public what a cubic foot looked like: 12 inches by 12 inches by 12 inches. And you go, “Look, every time this bathroom fan – 40 of these have to leave the building, which means 40 equivalent CFM have to come back in the building somewhere. And we talked about how important it is to have balanced ventilation.

    Now, on the project we’re doing right now, we had a big commercial – a pro-style range. It needed 900 CFM – 900 of these little boxes that I showed every minute.

    TOM: That’s a lot of boxes.

    LESLIE: That’s crazy. Per minute.

    RICHARD: Not every hour, not every day. Every minute. And so we really had to talk about that. When that fan is on, when that stove is on, we have to install a fan to push 900 CFM of ice-cold air in the winter or super-hot air in the summer, into the building.

    LESLIE: Back into the house.

    RICHARD: Crazy. I think you’ve got to realize that you do it with some penalty when you go to one of these big, big commercial ranges. Because if you don’t do it – if you don’t do any makeup air – think about what happens. Now, we turn on the stove, we put on the hood, 900 CFM are now leaving the building. Where’s that air going to come from? Well, it’s going to come down every chimney, it’s going to come in through every bathroom fan, it’s going to pull on every window, it’s going to make the whole building under negative pressure.

    So the biggest sort of troublemaker in the whole ventilation system in this building is this monstrous, commercial, pro-style range.

    TOM: Wow. So there’s a big cost to these ranges, not only in buying them but the operational cost, if you don’t get it just right, can really be extraordinary. But they’re really interesting and they’re definitely fun to have.

    RICHARD: It reminds me of – we always saw people that come in to a showroom – a plumbing showroom – and say, “I want to have that big whirlpool tub.”

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    RICHARD? You know that big 5-foot by 5-foot whirlpool tub? And they would forget that they would also now have to put in a water heater that’s big enough.

    TOM: Yeah.

    RICHARD: This is the same thing with commercial stove. They come as a pair; you have to have ventilation to go with that commercial stove.

    TOM: Good advice.

    LESLIE: And you know what? You also have to make sure it’s going to fit into your house, through the door.

    RICHARD: That’s right. But we have saws, we have Sawzalls. We can cut the cabinets.

    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: Thanks. Great to be here.

    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 is brought to you on PBS by Lumber Liquidators. Hardwood floors for less.

    Still ahead, will the trees in your yard survive winter’s chills? Take steps now to make sure the answer is yes. 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.

    Pick up the phone and give us a call at 888-MONEY-PIT. We’ve got a really great prize up for grabs this hour. We’re giving away a SideWinder Drencher Showerhead from Waterpik. Now, it’s really great because if you’ve got people of assorted heights in your house, everybody can enjoy a really comfortable shower. It’s got an innovative, auto-locking, high/low arm. And that’s going to adjust the spray height by simply just switching to a lower level for the kids or in the middle if you don’t want to get your hair wet. It’s really just the perfect shower for every family out there.

    It’s got six spray options. It’s worth 70 bucks at The Home Depot and you can check it out at Waterpik.com. But one lucky caller is going to win one this hour, so give us call with your questions.

    TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    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.

    Well, by now there’s a chance your Christmas tree has been boxed up or dragged out to the curb, which means it’s time to start thinking about other trees, like the ones in your yard that will hopefully bloom this spring. But you do need to take some steps now to make sure yours will survive the colder weather ahead.

    LESLIE: Yeah. First, it’s really important to know that trees aren’t just hanging out when the weather is cold. They’re actually working to conserve food and energy and they’re protecting their growing parts under those layers known as buds. And those buds can be very vulnerable.

    TOM: Yep. And you can help by keeping those trees warm in the winter. Here’s what you need to do: simply add a thin layer of composted organic mulch to the tree’s soil surface. And that will help shield the roots from extreme temperatures and keep those trees warmer.

    LESLIE: Now, if your tree is on the young side and hasn’t developed a cork-y bark just yet, you want to wrap that tree and of course, try to keep pets and animals away from it.

    TOM: And most importantly, resist the urge to prune too many dead branches right now. Those cuts should be made very selectively until the weather warms up.

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

    PATRICK: We’ve got probably a 20 or – nah, 15,000- or 20,000-gallon pool above ground, OK?

    TOM: OK.

    PATRICK: So that’s a lot of weight. Since, I have put in three shallow wells and with a 1-horsepower pump that draws for my sprinkler system.

    TOM: OK.

    PATRICK: We have a standard lot. It’s probably 80×125. And I’m getting some sagging or – not some sagging. I’m getting a decent amount of sagging on the pool fence. So am I sucking too much water out and then the weight is pushing it down or what do you think?

    TOM: The water shouldn’t impact the fence. If the fence is settling, I don’t think it’s because you’re pulling water out from under it. Usually, if you get a lot of settlement, it’s because of the grade of the land. If there’s a lot of water sitting in there, like from rainfall and then you have weight on top of that, then that will disturb the soil, it makes the soil weaker and then things shift.


    TOM: So I don’t know if you can connect the well with the movement of the fence. Just the fence that’s moving?

    PATRICK: Yeah, it’s pulling away from the main post. It …

    TOM: Yeah, it’s probably just a little bit of settlement in that area. Pulling away from a post like that is not that terribly unusual and so I wouldn’t attribute that to some shifting of ground underneath.

    PATRICK: OK. OK. So you don’t think I’m sucking too much water out of the water table and then now it needs to go somewhere?

    TOM: I don’t know what you’re taking out of the water table, Patrick, but I know it’s not likely to cause the fence to move.

    PATRICK: Oh, got it. OK.

    TOM: Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Still ahead, are you tired of your feet hitting a freezing-cold floor? We’re going to tell you a fix for cold floors that doesn’t involve putting on thicker socks, when The Money Pit continues.

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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.

    TOM: Hey, could you be sitting on a possible health emergency, literally? We’re talking about radon gas. It’s common but if it’s not funneled out of your home, it can potentially cause serious health complications, including cancer. We’re going to teach you how to test for radon and vent it outside and more, right now, on MoneyPit.com. Check out the story on our home page. Again, that’s at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: And of course, while you’re at MoneyPit.com, post your questions for us, just like Nick did. And Nick writes: “As it starts to get cold outside, my hardwood foyer and tiled kitchen floor are really cold, even with the heat set to 70 degrees. Is it worthwhile to insulate the ceiling joists of my basement? My basement is mostly above ground. I have full windows in the basement, so I suspect the basement gets colder than a normal basement would. Or should I look into caulking or spray-foaming the area where the house sits on the cinder blocks? There’s already insulation in areas but I’m not sure how well it’s sealed.”

    TOM: You know, it’s never a bad idea, Nick, to insulate the basement floor or more accurately, the basement ceiling which is the kitchen floor in your case. And that insulation should extend all the way to the box beam.

    Now, you mentioned there’s some insulation there already and that’s typical. But what I would do is I would take that insulation out. I would seal any gaps around that space, especially between the sill and the foundation – you typically can get some air in there. And then, again, with the floor insulation, go ahead and put it really from end to end. Now, you can use unfaced insulation there. If you have 10-inch floor joists, use 10 inches of insulation. Fill it right up. Don’t over-stuff it but fill it right up.

    That’s going to make a big difference in your comfort, because the one thing that you didn’t mention, which is most likely the driving factor here, is that your basement may not be heated all the time. Basements, we typically heat them when we need them. We typically don’t heat them to room temperature all the time. So, yes, they are going to be colder. But if you insulate that basement ceiling or the first floor of your home, I think you’ll find that you’re going to be much more comfortable.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got a post here from Ashley who writes: “How can I get oil-based paint off my window screens?”

    Oh, yikes. That sounds like a no-fun project.

    TOM: That can be a real mess. I guess it really depends. If the window screens are metal, then no problem because you would just use a standard paint stripper to do that, like a Zip-Strip or one of those orange peel-based products. But if they’re the newer fiberglass type, you’re probably not going to be able to get that off. Any stripper you put on there is probably going to eat away at the fiberglass.

    But the good news is, as you know Leslie, the fiberglass is not expensive and you can just take those screens to your hardware store and have them replaced right then and there. That’s really going to be the best way to go. If it’s metal, you can probably remove it. But if it’s fiberglass, you should just replace it. Not worth the hassle.

    Alright, next up we have a question from the LameRemodeler about painted paneling in the living room. And LameRemodeler says, “I am about” – I love that. “I am about to have my living-room paneling painted. Which type of paint is best: flat, eggshell, satin, semi-gloss or gloss? I plan to use semi-gloss on the trim but I’m unsure about the walls. What do you think?”

    LESLIE: Hmm. I mean it’s paneling. It’s not like it’s a smooth wall surface.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Usually, for a wall surface, I go with eggshell or that matte enamel that looks like matte but it’s just a touch over. Maybe you want to go with satin, just because I feel like flat would like so weird on a wood paneling. And maybe the satin would be like a notch below the semi.

    TOM: I think you’re probably right. And this way, it’s more cleanable, too.

    LESLIE: Yeah. And I think you’re smart to paint the paneling. Go with it, treat it like what it is and that’ll really become a design choice rather than trying to cover it up or fill in the gaps. It’s going to look great.

    TOM: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show always on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for spending this hour with us. That’s about all the time we have. But remember, you can always post your questions to us, as well, at Facebook.com/TheMoneyPit.

    I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …

    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.


    (Copyright 2015 Squeaky Door Productions, Inc. No portion of this transcript or audio file may be reproduced in any format without the express written permission of Squeaky Door Productions, Inc.)

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