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  • Transcript

    (NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)
    (promo/theme song)

    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 this is where work and fun meet, because we’re going to help you get out the tools and get to work, fixing up your house. We all have those money pit moments when, out of sheer frustration, something goes wrong that we couldn’t possibly have predicted or we’ve got some improvement that we just need a little bit of a push to get going with. Well, we’re here to give you that push, to give you that idea, to give you the inspiration, to give you the instruction that you need to get to work in your house and make it the home that you know it is. So give us a call right now because the first step is up to you. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.
    Now that I’ve got you all excited about (Leslie chuckles) picking up the hammers and tools and getting to work, now a little bit of bad news because there’s a new law coming on the books next month. And guess what? It could drive up the cost of home improvement, especially if you’ve got a house that was built before 1978. Why is that an important date? Because that’s when they stopped using lead in houses.
    And if you’ve got an older house built before 1978, there’s a law coming out by the EPA that’s going to require lead testing and lead cleanup procedures for remodelers doing work in your house. We’re going to talk about that this hour and give you some ideas on how it may impact the projects you’re thinking about doing in your house this year.
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And while we’re on that topic, you know, painting – it’s an easy do-it-yourself project that will make a huge impact in any room. And with so many great, new paints out there, interior paint jobs are cleaner, quicker and greener. So coming up a little later, we’re going to hear from an expert with Consumer Reports magazine to tell us which paints stood up to the rigors of Consumer Reports testing.
    TOM: And this hour, we’re giving away a prize that can help you buy a beautiful, new, Therma-Tru fiberglass door. It’s a $50 Lowe’s gift card, courtesy of Therma-Tru. You can use it towards the purchase of a Benchmark door by Therma-Tru, available only at Lowe’s.
    So, let’s get right to work. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Let’s get right to it.

    Leslie, who’s first?
    LESLIE: Jane in California is dealing with some walls that are cracking up. Tell us about it.
    JANE: I have tried a couple things where, often, the cracks are in the ceiling and they’re just hairline cracks. But then, when you first walk in the front door, there are two arched openings to two rooms and parallel to the floor are bigger cracks. And whatever I’ve tried hasn’t worked; they open up.
    TOM: Well, what have you tried, Jane? Have you simply tried to spackle over those cracks?
    JANE: Yes, I’ve – somebody suggested Fixall and then drywall compound on top.
    TOM: OK.
    JANE: And they opened and …
    TOM: Have you tried to retape them?
    JANE: Pardon?
    TOM: Have you tried any type of drywall tape over them?
    JANE: No, because this is all plaster.
    TOM: Right. Well, I understand that. Plaster does form a lot of cracks because of the expansion and the contraction in the wall but a solution is to use a fiberglass drywall tape. You want to sand the wall first. You’re going to apply a fiberglass drywall tape; it’s perforated, sticks to the crack.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm. It’s the one that looks like a mesh netting.
    JANE: Oh, OK.
    TOM: And then you’re going to apply spackle on top of that. You want to use two to three coats, build it up and that will bridge the gap across the crack and, hopefully, stop it from opening up again.
    When you simply plaster or spackle on top of a crack, it’s not going to hold because the wall is moving; it’s always expanding and contracting and the crack is going to show right back up again. So you have to tape over it with a drywall tape first and that should fix it once and for all. OK, Jane?
    JANE: Thank you very much.
    TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: Earl in Nebraska, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
    EARL: Yes. You can help me by telling me how to solve a little problem I have with a knock on the washers behind my washers.
    TOM: OK.
    EARL: I installed, behind there, an air chamber or stub-out. And the washer is new and I didn’t want to have all that knocking, so I – when the valve comes on and I’m standing by the washer, it’s just – all I can hear is the valve.
    TOM: Right.
    EARL: But I went upstairs – it’s in the basement on a one-story house. I’m upstairs to a bathroom that’s above the washer and I hear a very loud knocking when I – still.
    TOM: Mm-hmm. Well, that’s because you have what’s called “water hammer.”
    EARL: Right.
    TOM: And even though you installed that air chamber right near the washer, it’s probably not big enough to absorb the shock of the water as the valve opens and closes.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Absorb the sound?
    EARL: OK.
    TOM: Have you seen these – do you know what a water hammer arrestor is?
    EARL: I do.
    TOM: Mmm. That’s probably what you need. It has sort of a like a rubber shock absorber inside of it. Because water is really heavy; when you think about it, water weighs eight pounds per gallon, Earl. So with all that water and all the centrifugal force, when the valve opens and closes, you get that big bang. It’s because the pipes are loose and one other way to solve this is wherever you can access the pipes, to tighten them up with proper securing – with proper hardware to secure it to the wall studs. But typically, you can’t get to that.
    But that’s what’s happening; the pipes are basically shaking, rattling and rolling and that’s what’s making the loud sound, because of the weight of all that water going through the pipe and then suddenly stopping as the valve closes. So the solution here is a water hammer arrestor, which is sort of a step up from what you did but that will make it a lot quieter.
    EARL: I will give that a try.
    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, on air and online at MoneyPit.com. And now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question whenever that question strikes you, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    TOM: 888-666-3974.
    Up next, learn why a contractor who does not bring up lead when talking about doing work on your older home could be breaking the law. We’ll tell you what you need to know, after this.

    (theme song)
    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
    TOM: And it’s tax time again. That might have you scrambling to find some last-minute deductions. Here’s a big one you can take advantage of for next year: you are entitled to a $1,500 tax credit for improving the energy efficiency of your home. One option is to replace your old, leaky, drafty, wood front door with a new, energy-efficient, fiberglass door. Now, these look like wood but they insulate up to five times better. Benchmark by Therma-Tru is a fiberglass door, available exclusively at Lowe’s. They come in a wide range of attractive styles that you can use to personalize your home, while increasing curb appeal. For more information, you should visit MyEnergyTax.com.
    And to help you with that purchase of a new fiberglass door, we’re going to give away, this hour, a $50 Lowe’s gift card, courtesy of Therma-Tru, which you can use towards the purchase of a Benchmark fiberglass door. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You must have a home improvement question to qualify for our drawing.
    LESLIE: That’s right. Pick up the phone and give us a call. We’d love to hear from you and hear about what you are working on. Especially give us a call if you’ve got a home built before 1978 and you’re concerned about the lead content in your house, because a new law that goes into effect next month will help protect your family from lead poisoning.

    Now, contractors who work on those homes that have been built before 1978 will be required to learn lead-safe practices, including how to test for lead in your house. Now, in children, even a tiny amount of lead exposure can cause neurological damage. Now, this is super-scary for me because we had some work done in our home and prior to having the work done – Henry was one – had less than 0.1 as a lead test.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah.
    LESLIE: After having the work done, at 18 months, 5.2 was his lead level.
    TOM: Wow.
    LESLIE: So, I mean, we know our house was built in the ’20s, so I have checked toys, cleaned up paint chips. And I have to get him retested again soon to see that we’ve contained this. But this is something that’s really scary, so you have to make sure that your house is safe for you and your family.
    Now, the EPA is calling for all remodelers who do work in these pre-1978 homes to register their company and complete an eight-hour training and certification course. Now, if you know that your home was built before 1978, you should ask your remodeler if they plan to test for lead. And certified contractors should be trained in the safe, lead-handling practices and make sure they do, because it’s very scary when suddenly, you know, your kid’s doctor’s test comes back with a high lead level.
    TOM: Yes. But while it’s good, a lot of contractors are very concerned that it’s going to drive up remodeling costs in an already difficult market. As consumers, though, you do need to be aware of what is and isn’t required. And don’t get fooled by a contractor who gives you a low price but avoids the lead issue, because he is not doing you any favors by ignoring the law. For more information, you can head on over to the EPA’s website at EPA.gov.
    888-666-3974 is the phone number you need to know for information on your next home improvement project. Give us a call right now. We are here to help.

    Who’s next?
    LESLIE: Chip in Nevada needs some help repairing a wood floor. What can we do for you?
    CHIP: Hi. It’s kind of a weird question but – it’s a 60-year-old home. We’ve got two …
    TOM: You’ll fit right in. (Leslie chuckles)
    CHIP: (chuckling) OK. It’s a T&G floor. It’s about two inches wide; basically, a quarter-inch-thick T&G, roughly 60 years old.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yep.
    CHIP: And there was water damage in the sub-floor. Well, everything just started to buckle in the substructure. I don’t have anything underneath there that I can screw to but I was wondering, if I were to wedge a 2×4 under there and use the breakaway screws to suck the floor back down, if that would work. And how do I patch the flooring?
    TOM: (overlapping voices) Oh, I see what you mean. Well, it might. So what you’re talking about doing is cutting a 2×4 to fit in between the floor joists, so you have sort of some blocking there that you could attach something to, correct?
    CHIP: (overlapping voices) Right. But unfortunately, the joists are going to be running the same way that 2×4 is going to be running.
    TOM: Alright. But you’ve to get the 2×4 attached some way under there so that you have something to actually grab, correct?
    CHIP: Correct, yeah. I was thinking about wedging it.
    TOM: OK.
    CHIP: I thought about wedging it underneath a piece of plywood.
    TOM: You’re going to have to nail it in, somehow; you’re going to have to secure it, somehow, between those floor joists.
    CHIP: Right.
    TOM: Now, in terms of the breakaway screws – yeah, I think they would work. There is a product out there called Squeeeeek No More. It’s a website that sells a lot of these breakaway screws; you’ll find some links where you can just buy the screws there. And there’s like a special tool that snaps off the head.
    But essentially, what you would do is you would put the blocking in. You would have to compress the floor, if you can do this, so that it’s down nice and flat.
    CHIP: (overlapping voices) We can.
    TOM: And then you would drill – probably with the hardwood, you’re going to want to pilot-drill it. But you’ll drill through that breakaway screw until it’s just below the surface of the wood and then you’ll snap off the head. And it comes off pretty easily; a quick rap will do that. And then, in terms of the hole, it’s a really small hole; it’s kind of like a finish-nail size. So you’re just going to want to fill that with some colored wood filler.
    CHIP: Excellent. That’s exactly what I needed to know.
    TOM: Alright. Well, that will solve the problem.
    CHIP: Thank you so much. I appreciate your time.
    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: Mary in Connecticut needs some help out in the garage. What can we do for you?
    MARY: We have a water problem. When it rains, the corner gets wet and it runs along the garage door. It needs some work and I didn’t know if this is something you would look at.
    TOM: Well, unfortunately, Mary, we can’t come to your house and look at it. (chuckles)
    MARY: Oh, I see. Well …
    TOM: But we can give you a couple of tips. There is a piece of weatherstripping that goes at the bottom of the garage door. It’s a very thick, rubbery piece and, typically, when the doors leak it’s because the door is no longer sitting flat on the concrete. Sometimes the doors shift or the floor sags. So the first thing to check is that when you bring your door down, does it hit perfectly evenly across the concrete floor? If it doesn’t, it has to be adjusted and sometimes that can be trimmed.
    The second thing I would do is I would replace the weatherstripping on the bottom of the door because they do need to be replaced every two to three years.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm. And they break down often.
    TOM: Yeah, because of the exposure to the salt and everything else.
    MARY: Exactly.
    TOM: It’s not a big deal to replace it. You sort of have to have the door about halfway up and typically it’s nailed in place. It’s a very thick, rubber gasket that goes on the bottom of it and it’s not too hard to do.
    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got John on the line who’s dealing with a heat issue. Tell us about it.
    JOHN: I’m not dealing too well. (Tom and John chuckle)
    LESLIE: (chuckling) OK.
    JOHN: I’ve got a 1952 California contemporary home. Here, it’s [G. Tom Scott] (ph) was the architect; he lived here. And it’s got a tongue-and-groove roof and I mean that’s really all I have is the roof.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) Right.
    JOHN: On the inside, I have a sandwich of cork, Styrofoam and cork; that’s my insulation. That’s what I look at up there.
    TOM: Wow.
    JOHN: And probably, originally, in the ’50s, this had a tar-and-gravel roof but now it has a shingle roof. I have a radiant energy problem in the summer that is beyond belief.
    TOM: So, this had a tar-and-gravel roof? Is it a low-slope roof?
    JOHN: Well, now, initially, back in the ’50s it did.
    TOM: Right.
    JOHN: Yes, it is a low-slope roof.
    TOM: It’s low-slope, now, with shingles on it? Is that …?
    JOHN: Shingles now.
    TOM: Yeah, that’s unusual. I mean, typically, you can’t put shingles unless the slope is at least 3/12.
    JOHN: Well, I think it just about makes it.
    TOM: Alright. Well, there is an – there are cool coatings that can be applied to the roof that’s low-slope. You can’t see this too well from the street, then, I presume.
    JOHN: You can see the roof; though just barely. Yeah.
    TOM: Alright. Because they’re not that attractive.
    JOHN: Yeah.
    TOM: But there’s a roof coating called fibrous aluminum paint. There are other types of what’s called a “cool coating” that essentially is a reflective coating for a low-slope roof; it actually extends the life of a roof. But to be honest, you’re not supposed to put it on top of shingles. So, you kind of have the wrong kind of roof there to deal with this.
    If you had a typical – say, a membrane roof or something of that nature, you could easily paint it with this and that would reflect some of the heat out.
    JOHN: Well, I’ll certainly investigate that.
    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project, John. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: Laurie in Rhode Island, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?
    LAURIE: I’m interested in hanging a rather large picture. It’s about 35×27 inches in a heavy frame; weighs about 12, 13 pounds. But the wall that I want to put it on is an outdoor wall but it’s also on the wall above my back door. It’s on my stairway. I’m just very concerned about how to properly, you know, secure it so that if there’s anything with slamming of the back doors, something that doesn’t …
    TOM: Yeah, the banging of the door and that kind of stuff.
    LAURIE: Exactly, exactly.
    TOM: Yeah.
    LAURIE: I mean I don’t want it shattered all over my stairs. You know, it’s a perfect spot.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm. Yeah. That would be a bad thing. There’s a really interesting little piece of hardware called a Monkey Hook.
    TOM: And it’s a wire that basically pierces the drywall and then locks the hook onto the wall. It’s really quite tight when it’s actually installed.
    TOM: And that’s a really easy way to hang this. I would probably use two, even though one can hold up to 50 pounds.
    LAURIE: Yep.
    TOM: But this way, you could actually have the wire supported between two of those, you see, in the unlikely event that the …
    LAURIE: So, side by side; not up and down.
    TOM: Yeah, exactly. Side by side. Yep.
    LAURIE: (overlapping voices) Right. OK.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Exactly; to split the weight on the wire on the back. If you can, get a nail into a stud; I mean, that would be your best situation.
    LAURIE: Right. But I mean, it would have to have a hook on it, like I said. My concern is if it falls.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Oh, absolutely.
    LAURIE: Yeah, yeah. OK. Alright. No, that was helpful. That’s what I needed.
    TOM: By the way, the website is MonkeyHook.com.
    LAURIE: OK. Thank you.
    TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: John in Illinois, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
    JOHN: Hi there. I get spots sometimes – I’ve had them in my bedroom; I’ve got one now in my bathroom – and they’re right where the ceiling and the wall meet. And I’m not sure if it’s just a condensation thing or mold or, really, how to correct the problem so I don’t continue to get those.
    TOM: Mm-hmm. Do you think it’s where you have nails that go through the drywall?
    JOHN: Well, you know, one of them looks like it possibly could be; like there’s a fastener there.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) Because what happens is sometimes where you get the nail that goes through the wall, that’s a little bit colder than the wall surface to the left or right of it. So you get more condensation there and then any dirt that’s in the air will stick there and it can cause it to sort of darken over time. It’s not necessarily a problem but it is not that unusual.
    JOHN: OK. So, how do you correct it? Do you just get rid of the stain and hope it doesn’t come back?
    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah. What you want to do is you want to clean it. I would spray it down with soapy water solution. You could spray it down with a bleach-and-water solution. And then you want to touch-up paint that area.
    But if it’s a matter of – I mean, if you had more insulation that you could put in above the ceiling in that area, that would cut down the temperature differential issue and make sure it doesn’t collect dirt quite as readily next time. But generally, it’s sort of a maintenance issue.
    You see this in houses a lot where sometimes you don’t have enough insulation and you can actually see each and every ceiling joist, sometimes, in the house. We call that “ghosting.” But what it really is when you have – the joist is a little colder on the ceiling surface so as air moves around the interior of the room, the dirt, so to speak, starts to stick there and darken that space. So sometimes you see spots or you see streaks as a result of not having enough insulation.
    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Still ahead, tackling a paint project – it is one of the easiest and least expensive ways that you can make a big difference in your home’s décor. But what paint is the best paint for your project? We’re going to find out when we talk to the expert testers at Consumer Reports, next.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Stanley Tools, your trusted name in quality hand tools. To learn more about their complete line of quality tools and everything for your toolbox, visit StanleyTools.com.
    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
    TOM: And you know, painting is one of the easiest, do-it-yourself projects that can make a huge impact in any room. And with some great, new paints out there, interior paint jobs are cleaner, quicker and also greener.
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. But when it comes to choosing the paint, which paints are actually the best and which ones provide the most value? Well, to find out, we turned to the experts at Consumer Reports. And here to tell us about the Consumer Reports ratings for interior paint is Bob Markovich, the home editor for the magazine.
    Welcome, Bob.
    BOB: Thank you.
    TOM: So, Bob, the first question is: is more expensive always better? I mean when it comes to paint, there’s so much labor involved; you really don’t want to chintz out on the quality because you want to do it once, do it right and have it last as long as possible. But when it comes to buying paint, is more costly paint always a better investment?
    BOB: Absolutely not. And this is the really – one of the really great news items that we found on our latest tests is that you can spend – you know, a lot of people shop for paint the way they shop for wine: a higher price has got to be better. And for instance, Benjamin Moore is an example. You’re looking at $45 a gallon and this is certainly a fine paint. Benjamin Moore Regal for low-luster, interior paint, for example, did well in our tests, especially if you’ve got a sunny room; it did really well there for fending off UV damage.
    TOM: OK.
    BOB: But in other areas, it really was not as good. For instance, the big thing is hiding; the ability of a new paint to cover the old paint. What’s great there is that, you know, do you really want to do two coats or three coats? No. You want to do one coat because that’s going to save you money. But I think the biggest thing is a lot of time.
    And the paints that were really, really good at hiding, for instance – in fact, best overall, in all three categories was Behr Premium Plus Ultra. That’s Home Depot. You’re looking at about more like $30 a gallon; not $45. And we had some other paints that did almost as well for less.
    TOM: And that’s a new product that’s been out not too long and that’s the product from – correct? – is the one that’s paint and primer in a single can.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm. Mixed in one.
    BOB: You’ve got it. That’s the thing. We didn’t – that’s what they’re talking about. And I think that’s really something if you can actually, you know, paint this right over bare wood or even right over sheetrock or wallboard. So that’s really another money-saver but, again, just even looking at the other qualities, you’re looking at really superb performance – at least, certainly, among the low-lusters – at hiding what you’re painting over and that is so important.
    LESLIE: Now, what about – I mean we hear so much buzz about going green: low VOCs, no carcinogens. How does that rate? Because certainly when you jump into green-qualified paint, if you will, I mean the price point leaps as well and then suddenly you’re like, “Wow, I need to get two gallons of this?”
    BOB: No, here’s what’s really fantastic is that for the first time ever – this is like a total first in our interior paint test – you know, all of the top performers – you’re looking at – or most of them – the top four in each of the three categories – because we did low-luster – that’s, you know your satin and eggshell; that’s what goes over most places; you can get flat or matte, which is good for low-traffic areas; or you can get, of course, semi-gloss which is shinier for trim and windowsills; those are the three categories.
    And in all three, with one exception, the top four or five were all 50 grams per liter of VOCs; that’s volatile earth organic compounds and that’s what’s related to smog and respiratory issues and that’s what the EPA is expected this year to propose limits on that, that limit it to 50 grams per liter. And in parts of California, that’s already the law.
    TOM: So your sense, Bob, is that 50 grams is going to be, essentially, the standard and we won’t really be talking about whether a paint is green or not. Moving forward in the future, pretty much everything is going to be green.
    BOB: Yeah. I think that eventually what you’re going to see, as in parts of California now, that the EPA will probably propose for other parts of the nation that live at a 50 grams per liter or less. And again, it used to be in the past – and there are some zero grams or claimed zero grams per liter – but they haven’t done quite as well.
    In the past, when you had low-VOC paints, you had compromises and people really don’t want to compromise, we found. And actually, Lowe’s visited us and told us the same thing: people don’t want to compromise to be green; they want green but they also want good performance. And here you’ve got everything: you’ve got great hiding; you’ve got great-performance, stain resistance – all that stuff – in a paint. And there are a bunch of them here that’s got 50 grams per liter or less, as far as the claimed VOCs. You’re looking at Behr; KILZ, which is Wal-Mart – was another good one; Valspar’s, Lowe’s, is another good one.
    And again, the price. I just can’t keep emphasizing this enough. You’re not paying $45 a gallon for the best paints; you are paying as little as $15 a gallon for the paints that did best at hiding with one coat and are 50 VOCs or lower.
    TOM: That’s great news for consumers.
    We’re talking to Bob Markovich. He’s the Consumer Reports home editor. They’ve got a new story out on interior paints – all the ratings, everything that you need to know; the title, “Interior Paints, Cleaner Paints Save Money and Work.” And the good news is you don’t have to always buy the most expensive paint to get the best job for your project.
    So, Bob, you mentioned that some paints are good at durability; some paints are good at coverage. Do you really have to think about what your particular needs are before you head to the store and make that final selection?
    BOB: Yeah. I think, again, our top – in all three categories, our top picks are going to be good at hiding. They’re going to be very good or better at hiding with one coat and like that. But some are going to be better at mildew resistance, which is important, say, for a bathroom.
    I think the big difference that you’re going to find – and this is where the Benjamin Moores come out looking really good – and that is, again, fading resistance. So if you’ve got a sunny room, some of those top paints are great at every other area but not all that great at protecting against sun-fading. That’s where the Benjamin Moore – and particularly, the Benjamin Moore Regal – comes in. It’s expensive; $45 a gallon. But if you have a sunny room, that – really an excellent performer in that area.
    TOM: Great.
    BOB: So that’s where we would say go and spring for the Benjamin Moore if it’s a low-luster paint, for instance, or even if it’s a semi-gloss. You know, if you’ve got a windowsill that’s very, very sunny, you may want to choose Benjamin Moore for that, because it was OK in some other areas but great at sun-resistance.
    TOM: Good.
    Bob Markovich, the home editor for Consumer Reports. The ratings are out. Again, the top picks: Behr Premium Plus Ultra; KILZ Casual Colors; Valspar; and, as Bob just mentioned, Benjamin Moore Regal.
    Bob, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Great information.
    BOB: Thank you, Tom.
    TOM: For more tips, you can head on over to the Consumer Reports website at ConsumerReports.org or pick up the March issue on newsstands now.
    LESLIE: Alright. Up next, learn how to create your own backyard garden with no digging. You’ve got to love that. (Tom chuckles) Your back is already thanking you, so stick around.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Bondera TileMatSet; the fast, easy way to add the style and value of tile to your home. For more information, visit BonderaTileMatSet.com.
    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. You know, in a down housing market, curb appeal is the key. And one option to really spruce up your front entry is to replace your wood door with fiberglass. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Fiberglass. Huh?” But fiberglass doors, they look exactly like wood – even better than wood, actually – and they insulate up to five times better. And the best part is they qualify for a $1,500 tax credit.

    Now, the Benchmark door by Therma-Tru is sold exclusively at Lowe’s and it comes in a wide range of attractive styles and glass designs, so it will work for any house out there. Visit MyEnergyTax.com for more information about the tax credit. And to help you along with this great renovation, we’re giving away a $50 gift card from Lowe’s, courtesy of our friends at Therma-Tru.

    So give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question and one lucky caller that we talk to on this hour is going to win this great prize.
    TOM: 888-666-3974.
    Well, our First Lady, Michelle Obama, has gotten the country pretty interested in home gardens again. You know, the White House vegetable garden has provided veggies for heads of state and local food pantries, alike. But if you like the thought of a backyard garden but hate the thought of digging it up to do one, well, you can actually create a no-dig garden.
    Here is what you need to do. First, define your garden’s size and shape with some baking flour; it makes a great marking compound. You know, just like they use to, say, line a sports field, you can do your own lining with baking flour. Remember, it doesn’t have to be square; it can be any shape you like.
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It can be organic, if you will. (chuckles)
    TOM: Absolutely. Leaf-shaped.
    LESLIE: Next, you want to lay down about three inches of black-and-white newspaper or some cardboard. Then, you want to follow with layers of straw, compost, leaves and grass clippings. And you want to water in between each level.
    Now, as the layers decompose, you’ll see that level drop and you want to keep adding grass clippings or you can use a fertilizer like manure to help speed up that process of decomposition. Then, go ahead and add three to four inches of topsoil when you’re ready to plant.
    Now, the sturdy roots of most vegetables will find their way through all of that wonderful soil that you’ve just made, into the ground. And you will be so proud to cook when you enjoy what you’ve grown in your own garden. And you will know exactly what you’re eating; it’s pesticide-free and currently in season and super-fresh. So enjoy that nice, organic food and happy harvesting.
    TOM: 888-666-3974. Call us right now if you’d like to plant a home improvement question on us. We are up to the challenge and here to answer it, so give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: Charlie in Missouri is dealing with rusty water. Tell us about the problem.
    CHARLIE: Well, I have a well and the water, after a while, turns the shower curtain a rusty color, the internal part of the washer; that kind of thing. It’s just got a rust color to it after a while.
    TOM: Right. Mm-hmm.
    CHARLIE: And I wasn’t sure what to explore there as far as water treatment or what to do with that.
    TOM: Have you ever had the water tested for iron content and also for pH?
    CHARLIE: We had it tested some time ago. I don’t know the iron content of it; they didn’t say that. It had a little bacteria in it but there were no metal problems with it.
    TOM: There are three things that you can do. You can install a mechanical filter if you have visible rust. So, that’s something that will actually trap …
    CHARLIE: Yeah, well, I have a small filter on it; a household filter we change about every two months but that hasn’t helped.
    TOM: When you change it, do you find rust particles in it?
    CHARLIE: It’s kind of black (chuckles) when I take it out.
    TOM: Mmm. OK. Alright. Well, the second thing that you can do is install a water softener, especially if your water pH is less than about 6.8, because that will remove some of what’s causing this, which is the iron.
    And the third thing is a type of filter called an oxidizing filter and that will actually absorb the iron particles on the surface. So those – that combination of filtration system will stop the rusty water. It’s a bit – you have to be a bit of a chemist to get this right, though. So, do you have a company that does water treatment for you?
    CHARLIE: Not at this point; we don’t, no. I’m sure there is …
    TOM: You might want to get somebody in there to put a system in because I don’t think this is a do-it-yourself project.
    CHARLIE: Right.
    TOM: And I think with the right combination of elements, such as what we just talked about, you’re not going to have any more rusty water.
    LESLIE: Betty in Georgia has a question about the pillars around her house. What can we do for you?
    BETTY: I have six pillars that are around the front of my house under the front porch and they are eight inches around; eight feet tall.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) OK.
    BETTY: They put nails around the base of those and in the front, where the sprinklers pop up and water the shrubs, over these years, it has rusted those nails out and the water has seeped in there and bugs and it is rotted in the front of the pillars.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm. Right. OK, are these square, wood pillars? Like, you know, porsa (sp)?
    BETTY: (overlapping voices) They’re round pillars.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) They’re round. OK.
    BETTY: And they’re hollow.
    TOM: Hmm. Yeah. So they’re architectural. Do they look …?
    LESLIE: Not structural.
    TOM: Yeah, they’re not structural. Or are they structural?
    BETTY: I think they are. Yeah.
    TOM: Do you know if there’s a column, a structural column, inside and the pillar is pretty much cosmetic around the outside of the column?
    BETTY: Yes, yes.
    TOM: OK, that’s good news. So in this case, then, what you could do is you could use a wood filler or a water putty or something of that nature, carve out all of the rotted area and then just simply patch those rotted spots. Sand them, prime them, paint them and move on.
    BETTY: Right, right. That would – that was one of my husband’s ideas but I was looking for something …
    TOM: And your husband had a good idea. (Leslie chuckles)
    BETTY: Yes, yes. After 48 years, he’s got a great idea. (Tom, Leslie and Betty laugh)
    TOM: Alright, Betty. 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.
    Up next, you know, a deck will provide years of outdoor quality time for your family. We’re going to teach you about decking materials and which ones are best for you and your project, next.

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    TOM: Where home solutions live, welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete. If you’re looking for some more great, home improvement information, all you have to do is head on over to MoneyPit.com and you can read my blog. It’s super-fun. Tom has got one, too. His includes lots of great, money-saving advice; mine includes fun paint colors. (Tom laughs) Sometimes, he talks about fun paint colors but it’s never as fun as mine. Hee-hee-hee-hee-hee.
    But seriously, our blogs are great. They are full of excellent, home improvement information; cool, new products; great, money-saving advice. And also, we’ve got lots of news and insight into our current home improvement projects, so you know exactly what’s going on in our households.
    And you’ll be relieved to know that we go through some, if not all, of these same things that you actually go through. So, we’re all in the same boat when it comes to these projects. And it’s all there at MoneyPit.com.
    And while you’re online, you can click on the Ask Tom and Leslie icon and you can e-mail us your question. And I’ve got one here from Dan in Iowa who writes: “We’re building a new home and I’d like more information on the plastic and composite decking materials. I’ve read of mold issues with composite materials and static shocks with the plastic decks.”
    TOM: Well, I’ve got to tell you, today it makes a lot of sense to use a composite decking product. Now, composite decking is only used for the decking surface and the railing; it’s not used for the structure.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Not the structure.
    TOM: So you would still build your structure out of standard, pressure-treated lumber, following all of the appropriate building codes. But as far as the decking surface and the railing, composite is absolutely the way to go.
    Now, some of the early composites, they had a mixture of plastic and wood fiber together and, as a result, you still had a little bit of organic matter in the composite and that’s where the mold and the mildew would take hold and grow. But the new ones – the high-tech composites like Fiberon – they are totally encapsulated; they’re absolutely mildew-proof. They look as good the day you put them down as they will five years into the future; really high-quality stuff.
    And in fact, we are building with the Fiberon product right now, Leslie, a very large bridge; a 30-foot-long foot bridge through a park, in the middle of our town.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Now, this is the Boy Scouts project for your son, right?
    TOM: With the Boy Scouts, that’s right. The Boy Scouts are building this bridge across a stream and they’re using Fiberon. I’ve got to tell you, it’s damp, it’s wet, it’s spongy everywhere you look in this park and I have no concern about this Fiberon product really standing up to all of that moisture. It’s just not going to show a dent of wear or tear because, you know, that’s what you get when you buy a good product.
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what? It’s probably going to be one of the best-looking things out there, besides what Mother Nature has provided, because the actual composite material itself looks gorgeous. It has graining built in it; it has a lot of color, so it really does look like actual lumber. So don’t be afraid and jump right on in with that composite project; you’re going to love it.
    TOM: Well, if your car was sitting idle all winter, would you just jump in and expect it to fire up the first time? Well, this hour, Leslie has got the last word on lawnmower care and maintenance, because they sit around all winter long and they seldom fire up the very first time, unless you take a few steps before you put it away.
    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, some of you in those warm, sunny spots of this country have already started your lawnmower and to those of you, I’m kind of angry as I’m still sitting under feet of snow. But many of us are going to be starting up that lawnmower for the first time.
    So before you do rev up that mower, you want to check the spark plug wire connection first; that’s the first thing you want to look at. Then, you want to check the blade. And when you’re looking at the blade, you want to sharpen any dullness that you see there with a file. Then, go ahead and clean it inside and out and you want to make sure that you lubricate all of the moving parts, including the wheels.
    And don’t – I repeat – do not use last year’s gasoline; it is bad. It will gunk up your entire machine if you try to go for it, so don’t. Just empty that tank and then start fresh. You can add fuel extender to, you know, push the limit a little bit but make sure you start fresh. And next fall, repeat the steps before you stow it away; this way, it’ll maybe start the first time when you go for it in the spring.
    TOM: Coming up next week on the program, we’re going to continue to help you get ready for spring planting and talk about how to do soil testing. That will actually help you determine how fertile your garden will be and what you need to know to make sure it will grow everything that you’ve got to plant the first time out. Find out exactly what to do, on the next edition of The Money Pit.
    I’m Tom Kraeutler.
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.

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    (Copyright 2010 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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