Learn How Roof Underlayment Can Prevent Leaks, Use Spray Insulation to Stop Air Leaks, Tips on How to Check Your Heating System and more.

  • 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: Give us a call right now with your home improvement project, your do-it-yourself dilemma. We are here to help you get the job done. I want you to look around your house. Yes, we do call it your money pit but it’s a term of endearment, because we know you love it even though it is constantly begging for money. We can help you put less money into that if you call us right now and we can talk about that project. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. And we’re sure there are lots to do, because it’s going to be a very cold and wet winter through most of the country.

    Isn’t that great news, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Yay! Wait. Don’t everybody start cheering at once. Come on, you guys.

    TOM: But we are going to help you get your house ready. So coming up, we’ve got some advice on how you can protect your roof from one part of that nasty weather. They’re called ice dams and you don’t want to have them because they make a big, stinking mess both inside and outside your house.

    TOM: Yeah, right, Tom.

    And you know what? Another thing we should be talking about is insulation. You really need to make sure that you have enough of the right kind in your home. Because if you don’t, you’re going to be wasting a lot of energy dollars.

    So this hour, we’re going to tell you how spray-foam insulation can help you solve that problem while also sealing out drafts.

    TOM: And even if your home is well-insulated, you might find yourself in the cold if you don’t pay attention to your heating system. It is time for your annual checkup and we’re going to tell you what to do to make sure that that system helps you stay warm throughout the winter months.

    LESLIE: And one lucky caller who makes it on the air with us this hour is going to get a handy tool that could make almost any home project easier. It’s a Power Cutter by Skil and it’s a small, easy-to-use, cordless cutter that’s useful for everything from cutting carpet to wrapping holiday gifts. That’s a very versatile tool.

    TOM: But you’ve got to be in it to win it. To get in it, pick up the phone and call us right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. We will toss all names into The Money Pit hard hat and if it’s you, we’ll send that Skil cutter out to you at the end of the show. So, give us a call, 888-666-3974. Lots of folks standing by with their home improvement questions. Let’s get right to those phones.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Kath in Alaska on the line who’s dealing with not-so-great water pressure. Tell us what’s going on.

    KATH: Hi. When we built our house about 18 years ago, it’s not so much the water pressure but we have a water heater and the pressure tank in the kitchen.

    TOM: OK.

    KATH: And I want to move them upstairs because we’ve added on since then. But about seven years ago, I noticed we started getting rust in our water and it’s been – the water leaves slime. Not lime but slime on the bathtub and the – or not the bathtub but the shower walls and stuff.

    TOM: OK. Right.

    KATH: Any idea what that could be?

    LESLIE: How often are you changing the filter on the pump?

    KATH: My husband takes care of that kind of stuff, so I have no idea.

    TOM: Oh. That would be never?

    KATH: Yeah, probably.

    LESLIE: Because you’ll see on the pump, in your control room – whatever you want to call it – there’s a tank on the side that hangs off that’s clear. It should be clear. But when that water gets really rusty and dirty and gross, that whole little, clear tank is going to just look mucky and rusty and disgusting and you just need to turn off all your water, unscrew that, change out the filter. And you’re supposed to actually do that every month.

    KATH: Oh. Well, it’s been 18 years, so it’s probably never been done.

    TOM: Probably overdue, yeah. And some of the filters actually don’t have to be every month; some of them can be done every six months. It depends on the kind of filter that you use but basically, you want to make sure you have a whole-house water filter on this, Kath, because that’s where you would be stopping the rust.

    LESLIE: And make sure you turn off the water.

    KATH: OK.

    LESLIE: I’m speaking from experience.

    KATH: Well, we don’t have any kind of conditioning – we don’t have any kind of water-conditioning system on this house at all.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Right. But this one …

    TOM: But you may not need one but what you might need is just a filter to take out the debris that’s coming up in the water.

    LESLIE: Yeah. Because my family has a beach home that my parents have had for ages and ages and we’re on a well there and we’ve got a well pump. And on the well pump is this filter, just to sort of take out the particulates, as Tom mentioned.

    And similar situation: you don’t change it as often, you end up with rust-colored water, sometimes a discoloration, a smell, a change in texture. And for some reason, this past summer when we opened up the house for the season, my husband and I were the first ones to get out there. And we went to change the filter and we thought we had closed the water supply completely and we just didn’t close it all the way.

    KATH: OK.

    LESLIE: Undid the little tank and water was spraying everywhere. And you try putting that back on and trying to grab the main; it was a disaster. So just be careful.

    KATH: OK.

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

    LESLIE: Gutter Cleaning 101 with Ken in Delaware. How can we help you today?

    KEN: I have a little weed problem.

    TOM: A weed problem?

    LESLIE: Growing out of your gutters.

    KEN: And it’s – yeah, well, the weeds are growing in the gutters.

    TOM: Yeah. This would be a clue, Ken. Your gutters are talking to you. They’re saying, “Ken. Oh, Ken. It’s time to clean us!”

    KEN: Yeah. And I’ve been looking at some of these gutter covering kind of things that they keep – I have pine needles. So, it’s difficult to get something to keep them out of it.

    TOM: Right.

    KEN: And if I don’t clean them two or three times a year, then that’s it.

    So, I guess the advice I’m looking for is what’s your experience or advice on the gutter helmet-like products and where – which are better and which are worse and what to look for.

    TOM: You know, the reverse-curve type, which is the gutter helmets and others that are similar to that, work very well except that I have some concerns about whether or not they have – when they get in a situation where there’s a lot of water running down the roof all at once, like heavy, heavy rain, even maybe a steep roof.

    But I think the best is the mesh type. There are a number of mesh types out there. Gutterglove, I think, is one of them that works very good. And what happens with the mesh is that they never really ever clog; they’re made from a really super-fine, stainless-steel mesh with – they have – where they have like maybe 100 holes per square inch. So the water does go through them but there’s never anything that’s open enough for those pine needles that you talked about to kind of stick there. Does that make sense?

    KEN: Yes. In fact, I had, laying here on my desk somewhere and I can’t find it, one of the pamphlets from one of the ones that has a microfiber-type mesh. And it’s a stainless steel of some sort. And they’re due to come out next week and give me a quote but I wanted to check with you guys to see – and girls – to see – got to give the tip of the hat to the lady – what your opinion on it was and what to look out for.

    TOM: Well, I’ll tell you what. Online at MoneyPit.com, there’s an article that I wrote called “The Cost of Gutter Guards: Are They Worth It?” So if you just got to MoneyPit.com and you search on the topic of gutter guards once you’re on the site, you’ll find that story.

    And we go through a discussion of the reverse curve, the mesh, the bottle-brush type. There’s nylon types, there’s foam types. Pretty much lists them all out there with some links through the different manufacturers so you can really get a good overview of all the gutters that are out there – gutter guards that are out there – and try to determine which one is best for you.

    KEN: Excellent. Thank you for your advice. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: You are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Well, the countdown to Thanksgiving has officially begun. Is your kitchen ready? Is your home ready? You’re about to have a lot of guests knocking on your door for a tasty turkey dinner. So we can give you a hand with all of those home improvement problems 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next on The Money Pit, the Farmers’ Almanac says we’re going to get blasted with a cold, wet winter. Can your insulation take it? We’re going to tell you one way to make sure you aren’t letting heat slip away, after this.

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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 tool box, visit StanleyTools.com.

    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 we want you to go to the phones right now and call us with your home improvement question at 888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you might just be the one caller whose name we draw out of The Money Pit hard hat and send along the Skil Power Cutter worth 50 bucks.

    This is a very cool tool. It’s got a 3.6-volt lithium-ion battery and you can cut through almost anything. You could cut wallpaper, vinyl flooring, vinyl siding, carpet. You name it, this thing will cut it. You can go to SkilTools.com to check out the Power Cutter in action or call us right now for your chance to win. The number is 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, if you aren’t sure if your home is properly insulated for this upcoming, super-chilly winter, time is running out. Even if you have the proper amount of insulation, you still could have leaks.

    Now, traditional insulation can leave gaps around things like your electrical boxes or light fixtures. It’s really just a law of physics that warm air is going to flow to cold air. And those gaps? They’re just going to let that happen.

    So what can you do about it?

    TOM: Well, you might want to consider using a spray-foam insulator like Icynene. If you use a product like that, it can seal and insulate at the same time. The traditional cellulose/fiberglass insulation is great but it can’t handle the sealing part.

    And that’s why I like Icynene. It kind of starts off as a liquid and then expands and fills all of those cracks, those crevices, those gaps and it reduces the air leaks. And if you do that, sealing those leaks can cut heating costs up to somewhere around 50 percent. It can also keep pests away, it can keep pollutants away, it can keep allergens out of your homes. It’s just a really good idea.

    And another advantage that you might not have thought of is this: noise reduction. You can shut out traffic noise, you can shut out your teen’s music upstairs if it’s applied properly. You need to have a licensed Icynene dealer install it to make sure you get the proper amount and that everything is sealed kind of correctly.

    So if you want to get a quote or find a dealer in your area, you can go to their website at Icynene.com. That’s I-c-y-n-e-n-e.com. It’s a whole different insulating experience than fiberglass or cellulose. You really ought to see this in action at Icynene.com.

    LESLIE: Karen in Ohio is on the line with an insulation question. How can we help you?

    KAREN: Hi. We live in an older home, built around 1925. And in our dining room and living room, we have wood floors. And I wondered if we should put – and we do have a basement underneath.

    TOM: OK.

    KAREN: And now we wondered if we should put insulation on the ceiling of the basement, which would be underneath the dining room and living room floors.

    TOM: Is the basement finished?

    LESLIE: Is the basement finished? Jinx.

    KAREN: It’s not finished but it does have a cement floor.

    TOM: OK.

    KAREN: I mean it’s not a dirt floor.

    LESLIE: But is it heated?

    KAREN: Our furnace is down there. We don’t really – it’s definitely …

    TOM: Yeah, it’s not heated. It’s an unfinished basement.

    LESLIE: So it’s not a conditioned space in any way.

    TOM: Yeah. You know, it’s not a bad idea to put insulation into the ceiling of the basement. It’ll make that floor much warmer and more comfortable.

    KAREN: That’s what I was wondering. Because a couple people had told us, “No, you don’t want to do that.” But there’s nothing underneath the wood floor. If you go down to the basement and look up …

    TOM: There’s no reason. Basically, the reason we asked you if the basement was finished is because you don’t want to put insulation between two heated spaces. But the basement is unfinished and so there’s no reason – the heat is really not designed for the basement; the heat really covers the finished side of the house, which is the first floor. So insulating the floor is not a big deal and it’s going to make that first floor that much more comfortable, Karen.

    KAREN: Oh, OK. Good, good. OK. That’s what I needed to know.

    TOM: Alright. Good luck with that project.

    KAREN: OK. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, I’ve never said that guys are good at doing laundry and here’s some proof. We’ve got William in Iowa on the line who’s having a laundry issue. Tell us what’s going on.

    WILLIAM: Well, we wash our clothes and dry them and the dark clothes, if they’re damp or even in a room that’s a little bit damp, they get really, really musty and (inaudible at 0:14:25) smelling. Well, I want to know what’s going on.

    TOM: So the light clothes don’t smell; only the dark clothes smell.

    WILLIAM: Only the dark clothes.

    TOM: OK. And when you wear your dark clothes, do you get really good, heavy-duty workouts where you really sweat and get messy and …?

    WILLIAM: No, not really. I used to. I used to work on cars but not anymore.

    TOM: I was just wondering if the dark clothes are dirtier than the light clothes.

    That’s a really odd question, William. I don’t have any idea why that would happen except to say that if they’re heavier clothes, of course, they’ll take longer to dry than the light clothes. And are you on a well there?

    WILLIAM: Well, it’s rural water, so it’s basically the same.

    TOM: Rural water, OK. Because sometimes, depending on the minerals that are in the water, if you don’t dry them right away, they can really develop quite an odor. And then the other thing to check is to check the water hardness and make sure that your water is not hard.

    And then after that, I would also check the venting for however your washing machine drains. Because if there’s a problem with the venting system, then you’re going to get sewage gas that backs up and really, it may not have anything to do with the color of the clothes, which would make sense, of course. It’s more a problem with the way the plumbing system is vented itself.

    So, it’s going to be one of those possibilities, William. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Tom in South Carolina is calling in with a roofing question. What can we do for you?

    TOM IN SOUTH CAROLINA: The house that we have has a flat roof on it and the roof is a membrane roof that my dad had put on about 30 years ago, long before he passed away.

    TOM: Wow.

    TOM IN SOUTH CAROLINA: And it’s doing great: no leaks or anything. But I want to know, how do I keep it in good shape? I don’t have any idea what to do with it.

    TOM: Well, I mean I think your dad must have done a heck of a good job if that is still a 30-year-old roof that doesn’t have any leaks. The one thing that I would say is that you want to keep debris off of it because if you get a lot of debris that sits on top of it, that can cause a shortened roof life.

    And the second thing is that one product you can apply to this is a paint called fibrous aluminum paint; it’s like a silver paint. And what that does is that keeps the radiant heat down to a minimum, because it reflects it off of the roof’s surface.

    TOM IN SOUTH CAROLINA: That kind of like what they put on mobile homes, like they call it Kool Seal? Is that what you mean or is that something different?

    TOM: It’s a little bit like that. It’s called fibrous aluminum and it’s designed to stick to flat-roof material. And again, it reflects the sunlight and makes it last a lot longer.


    TOM: But I think you’re doing good.

    TOM IN SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, great. Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate it and I enjoy your show. I listen to it every week.

    TOM: Well, thanks, Tom, and we appreciate you calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Leo in Missouri is on the line with a water-heating question. How can we help you with that?

    LEO: I’m looking to replace my water heater and I’m wanting to do an on-demand, tankless water heater. And I’m looking at a couple of different units. One of them is a stainless-steel unit, 98 – the condensing unit – 98-percent condensing.

    TOM: You have an electric – you have electric water – electric hot water?

    LEO: Actually, I’m going to do – I want to use propane.

    TOM: OK. So you’re looking at a condensing, propane, tankless water heater. OK.

    LEO: Yes. And it’s stainless steel, 15-year warranty. They’re wanting about $3,000 for it. The other one is copper and it’s 94-percent condensing and they want about 1,400 for it. And it’s only got a 12-year warranty versus the 15. It just seems to me that it’s not worth twice the expense for …

    TOM: Yeah. It’s a fair point. I think that a tankless water heater is a good thing and definitely the way to go today. You’ll have the on-demand capability of having, really, an unlimited amount of hot water there that’s available any time you need it. There are lots of great manufacturers out there that make them. You should take a look at brands like Rheem – R-h-e-e-m – and Rinnai. Both great …

    LEO: Yeah, Rheem – pardon me. Rheem is the copper one and I think Navien is the stainless-steel one that I’m looking at.

    TOM: Well, Rheem is a much more well-known brand and they make really good products. And they’re at the top of their game, so I would not hesitate at all to invest in a Rheem product.

    LEO: OK. I appreciate your advice. That was kind of where I was leaning but I just kind of wanted to hear it from somebody else.

    TOM: Alright, Leo. Well, we’re happy to help. 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. Still to come, freezing temperatures, they are just around the corner.

    TOM: Brrr.

    LESLIE: And that can mean – I know. I’m not looking forward to this.

    And that means chilly nights for you if you neglect your heating system. We are going to have tips on how you can keep yourself and your home toasty, after this.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you in part by Arrow Fastener Company, the leader in professional fastening products since 1929. The makers of the iconic T50 Staple Gun, the world’s bestselling staple gun, Arrow Fastener has the right tool for every application. Explore Arrow’s latest product innovations at ArrowFastener.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: Keep in mind that many dangers in your home can’t be seen. You can get a list of the most common hidden dangers at your house by searching “safety at home” online at MoneyPit.com.

    Well, why does it always seem like your heat conks out in the middle of winter or your A/C quits on the hottest day of the year? If you don’t take care of your system, that’s exactly what can happen. Staying on top of heating and cooling maintenance will also help your systems run more efficiently and last longer.

    For the best advice on how to do just that, we turn now to Richard Trethewey. He’s the heating and plumbing expert for TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Richard.

    RICHARD: Nice to be in The Money Pit again.

    TOM: It’s a pleasure to have you, my friend.

    And we usually ignore the HVAC system until something goes wrong. But that’s the worst thing you can do. This is a system that truly needs regular care and feeding, right?

    RICHARD: Absolutely. Problem maintenance is not difficult or costly and it can really save you a lot of trouble in the long run. It has to run all winter and if you don’t maintain it, it’s not going to take care of you.

    TOM: So let’s talk about the reason that it needs maintenance. Burning fossil fuel just like running a car. If you don’t tune it up, everything gets dirty, gunked up and it can actually be unsafe.

    RICHARD: That’s right. Every time that burner fires, it’s a little bit of incomplete combustion and so, sooner or later, for any fuel – gas or oil – it does have to be serviced and cleaned.

    TOM: So if we hire a service pro, I’m sure that there are as many variations of what they actually do as pros out there. What are the core steps that a pro is going to take to make sure our system is efficient for the season and safe?

    RICHARD: Well, one is to make sure that you’re burning the fuel the most efficiently. So that would be the cleaning of the furnace, checking the burner to make sure it’s firing correctly.

    The next is to be sure it’s being delivered to the building correctly.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: Now, you’ve got ducts all through the building; those ducts should be sealed. It’s amazing to me how many ducts are put together without any duct sealer and maybe use a little bit of duct tape. So a fair amount of the heat or air conditioning, in cooling mode, that you’re making is not being delivered up to the living space. It’s going into the basement, it’s going into the walls, it’s going to the attic: the places where you don’t need it.

    TOM: Now, let’s – let me stop you right there because that’s a really important point. I think one of the core differences between the way we used to put ducts together and the way we do it today is that issue of duct sealing. And we’re talking, of course, about the sealing of the joints of the ducts. If you don’t seal them properly, as you say, all that conditioned air is going to escape. What are a couple of the options if you have an older house and you want to seal those ducts? Most people are going to grab a roll of duct tape but duct tape isn’t the best thing to use on ducts.

    RICHARD: Biggest misnomer in the entire industry. The last place you would want to use duct tape is on a duct.

    TOM: The adhesive just dries out and falls off.

    RICHARD: That’s right. So my preferred method is a duct mastic. It comes in a tub, like paint; it’s sort of like a putty, almost. It’s not quite a paint; it’s a little thicker than putty. It’s a pain in the neck to work with; it gets all over you. But you take a brush and you paint all the seams, both the seams where the ducts come together and on the sides of them. And you make sure that all of the air stays in there and that’s an elastic – elastomer sort of …

    TOM: So it expands and contracts with the duct itself.

    RICHARD: That’s right. And so it won’t crack.

    And the other is these foil tapes. Many of them have a rubberized backing on it that has got a great adhesion to it. You put that onto the ducts and the air stays in the duct.

    TOM: Now, that’s something you only have to do once, thankfully.

    RICHARD: Absolutely. Absolutely.

    TOM: But back to the steps of the service. What about filters? That’s another thing that people seem to ignore. I remember in the years I was a home inspector, I would see these incredibly dirty blower compartments on furnaces and then a brand-new filter, obviously just stuck in for the inspection itself.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: This is something that truly has to be replaced on a very regular basis.

    RICHARD: You can’t change the filter enough, in my opinion. And it becomes mostly a function, though, of the amount of contaminants in the house. If you have pets, with pet hair and dander, they should be changed regularly. At the least case, they should be changed before the start of each season, before heating season and again before cooling season.

    TOM: Now, speaking of cooling season, what additionally do you have to do to service your cooling system?

    RICHARD: Well, you want to make sure that the cooling coils – the place where the air goes across, if you ever looked inside any of these, it would be like aluminum fins. And you want to be sure those are clean as a whistle. And so, if there’s algae or any sort of mold buildup, a good service tech would be sure to do a coil cleaning to be sure that the air going across that coil is picking up all that cooling power or the heating power in heating mode.

    You also want to make sure the refrigerant level is correct on your air conditioner. You know, nowadays, any good service tech knows how to read his refrigeration gauges. The proper amount of refrigeration is critical. Too much refrigerant doesn’t help you and too little doesn’t help you. So you need somebody that knows what they’re doing.

    TOM: Now, what about the blower? Anything to adjust with the blower itself?

    RICHARD: You can. Most of these blowers are designed to be matched to the furnace that they’re actually coming in.

    TOM: OK.

    RICHARD: There’s not a lot of changes. There’s one thing that’s very interesting in the furnace industry, though, and that’s a thing called an ECM blower motor: electronically commutated motor.

    TOM: And how does that work?

    RICHARD: And with that, that blower fan, instead of just being at one speed, can actually change in according to how much resistance is out there. So, as zones or dampers are opened or closed, the fan will reflect that and sort of cruise control up or down to match. And it saves a lot of electricity.

    TOM: So that’s something that you might want to consider if you’re doing a retrofit.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

    TOM: Speaking of retrofits, when does it make time to change out an old furnace or an old air conditioner with one that’s newer and far more efficient? Do you wait until it fails? Do you wait until it becomes unsafe? I mean many times, I remember folks only replacing furnaces when the heat exchanger cracked.

    RICHARD: Well, I think you – some of the things that affect that decision is the cost of fuel. And if you have a furnace that’s been in there for a long time and if it, on its best day, was 75-percent efficient – and now you have a furnace you can put in that would be 95-percent efficient.

    Well, that’s an important number because as fuel goes up, if I can save 25 and 30 and 40 percent on my fuel bill, there’s really no better place to put money nowadays. If you had $10,000 to put into a bank, what would you – you can’t get any return on that, right?

    TOM: That’s true.

    RICHARD: So if I could do something that could avoid a major cost each winter and every winter it gets better and better as fuel goes up, then it’s a great investment. Most people don’t do it, though, until it breaks. They say it’s not the romantic part of the house. They just say, “Well, I’ll wait for it to break.”

    TOM: Now, there is one thing that you can do, even if you have a small budget, that is guaranteed to save you a lot of energy and that is to replace your standard thermostat with one that’s a setback thermostat, correct?

    RICHARD: Yeah, a clock thermostat. Let’s not heat the building or cool the building when people are not there.

    TOM: Makes a lot of sense.

    RICHARD: That’s right.

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

    RICHARD: Thanks for having me.

    LESLIE: And remember, you can watch Richard and the entire This Old House team on This Old House and Ask This Old House on your local PBS station.

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.

    Up next, water, water everywhere. A leaky roof (inaudible at 0:27:45) spell big trouble. We’ll share one way to prevent leaks, next.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Generac, makers of the number one-selling Guardian Series Home Standby Generators. Now introducing a full line of consumer and professional power washers. Whether you need to power it, clean it or protect it, Generac can help. Visit Generac.com to learn more.

    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: Give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, we’ll toss your name in The Money Pit hard hat and perhaps send out to you our prize this hour, which is the Skil Power Cutter worth 50 bucks.

    LESLIE: Yeah, this is a really cool prize. The Skil Power Cutter, that’s going to replace any household scissor or sort of heavy-duty kitchen tool that you have.

    It’s got 3.6 volts of power that’s going to help you cut through denim, leather, card stock, credit cards and of course, that frustrating clamshell packaging which, if you’ve got kids or if you’re buying any sort of electronic equipment or anything pretty much these days, it comes in, you can’t open it, you destroy your hands trying to get in there. But that Skil Power Cutter is going to cut right through this, so this really is a great prize leading up to the holidays.

    If you want to check it out, visit SkilTools.com to see the Power Cutter in action. And give us a call right now at 888-MONEY-PIT for help with your home improvement projects.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Well, if you thought leaky roofs were only a problem during the spring storm season, you may be wrong. You know, many homeowners will find themselves living under a dripping roof this winter when rain and snowstorms do come rolling through. And if you’re in a colder climate, you could find yourself with a condition called an ice dam if your roof is not insulated properly.

    Now, if you do find yourself with a leak and your roof is, say, 20 to 25 years old, you’re most likely approaching the end of your roof’s life span and it might be a good time to consider roof replacement. If your roof is younger and it doesn’t show deterioration, then you might just want to address the source of the particular leak until it’s time to replace.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, when you’re replacing your roof, you want to be sure to ask for an ice-and-water-shield underlayment. And the ice-and-water shield? It’s a membrane that goes underneath the roof shingles. And what it’s going to do is seal around the nails that hold the shingles in place so that water that doesn’t drain properly can’t penetrate the roof.

    Now, ice-and-water shields are commonly used along the edges of a roof where ice dams tend to form. And in southern climates, in places like the hurricane belt, it’s not unusual to find the entire roof covered with a weatherproof underlayment. It really does make a big difference.

    TOM: If you need more tips on how to stop the water from getting through your roof, visit MoneyPit.com and search on “roof underlayment.” You can get a better idea of how it works and whether you could benefit from it.

    888-666-3974 is the telephone number. We are standing by for your home improvement question. Let’s get back to the phones.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Alright. We’ve got Renee from North Carolina on the line who’s looking to update some finishes. What can we do for you today?

    RENEE: Our home was built in the 80s. All the finishes in our home are brass, down to our doorknobs, light fixtures and hinges on our doors. I’d like to update some of those finishes. Obviously, I can’t change everything out. What is the best metal to go to when you want to update your home but you are not able to do everything?

    LESLIE: Hmm. You’d actually be surprised to hear that brass is kind of making a comeback, so you kind of hang in there.

    TOM: But not at Renee’s house.

    LESLIE: Right.

    RENEE: Yeah.

    LESLIE: I know you’re probably so tired of it but it’s actually seeing a resurgence: this sort of high-polished brass, even an antique brass. But I think a lot of people are leaning towards antique bronzes or that oil-rubbed bronze, which has a blackish sort of antique-y finish to it that looks kind of neutral, if you will? I feel like something that’s not so shiny is a little bit better to stand the test of time, more like a satin nickel or something in the silver family that doesn’t have too much of a sheen to it.

    With faucets and fixtures, you want to make sure that whatever color that you go with has a coating on it that will allow that finish to really stand the test of time. Because sometimes, faucets, whether they’re for a sink or a tub, they can be on the higher end price-wise. And you want to make sure that that finish isn’t going to rub off or wear over time or start to change its patina as it ages.

    I don’t think you need to do everything at once but I will say that if you do tackle anything, tackle it as a suite. Handle an entire bathroom at once. Don’t sort of leave a brass fixture and then add a satin-nickel faucet, because it’s going to seem kind of weird.

    RENEE: OK, great. Thank you so much.

    TOM: You’re very welcome, Renee. 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. Coming up, is water leaking in your windows? We’re going to have the permanent solution for that problem, next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is presented by HomeTalk.com. Join Tom and Leslie on HomeTalk.com and log on to become part of the community of folks who love taking care of their homes, at HomeTalk.com.

    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. Well, get this, folks, we’ve got chilly weather ahead and you might be looking at a wood-burning stove to have some extra heat in your home. But if you don’t use them properly, they can be a waste of time and money, quite frankly. So if you want some step-by-step advice on how to get the most out of your wood-burning or even a pellet stove, go to MoneyPit.com and search “wood and pellet stoves.” Because, come on, the temperatures are dropping and we want you to be ready.

    TOM: Definitely. And while you’re at MoneyPit.com, please visit the Community section, post your home improvement question right there, like Jeff did who says, “There’s water coming in under the windows of my kitchen. This only happens when there is driving rain or I try to wash the windows with a garden hose. It doesn’t come in the window; it leaks from right under the molding. I’m looking for a cheap fix for now until I can afford a kitchen redo.”

    Wow. That’s interesting. Well, I will tell you this. If you take a garden hose and you shoot it at your windows, gravity does count and that’s what’s happening here. If you have a normal rain, the water hits up high, rolls down, rolls around the window. But when you have the kitchen – the garden hose squirted right at the sides of the window or a really strong, driving rain, you’re going to have a problem, in a lot of cases.

    Now, the solution here is not necessarily to replace the window, though, Jeff, it’s to replace the window flashing that surrounds the window. If you have the type of siding that can easily come off – cedar siding, for example, or shingles – I would take them off and I would reflash the entire window, starting at the top and working around to the sides, because that’s where the gap is.

    If you don’t have that and you want to do something – and I will say very temporary – you can caulk around that. But just keep in mind that the caulk is not a permanent fix and you might catch it, you might miss it. We’re not going to know until you get that driving rainstorm but it’s less work than, of course, taking off the siding if it’s very difficult to do.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you know what, Jeff? You actually did the smart thing because when you spray your window with a garden hose, that’s really a good way to replicate a wind-driven rain. So if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have a leak in the roof or a leak coming somewhere in your home from the exterior to the interior, spray that garden hose in that area and that’ll really help you find that spot where it’s coming in. So good job on sort of your detective work.

    Alright …

    TOM: Now let’s look at a post here from Papa in South Carolina who says, “My front porch steps have begun to settle and pull away from the house foundation. There’s now a gap of about 2 inches, which I’d like to fill. What’s your recommendation?”

    You know, this is a very common situation and it usually happens because of a poor drainage situation. If you have a front porch and you have water that gets in and around the porch foundation, typically that porch is not built on the same compacted soil that your house is built on; it’s built on soil that is somewhat uncompacted. And therefore, it settles quickly, especially when you let all the water get around it, and then it rotates.

    If you can imagine the porch is a big, square block, it rotates and rotates away from the house. So that gap is not a structural crack; it’s just settlement. And if it’s unsightly, you can fill it. You’re going to want to fill it with an epoxy patching compound. You can get one from QUIKRETE or another manufacturer. You could put it in there, trowel it flat. It’ll stick to the old porch, it’ll stick to the house and it’ll fill it in nicely. But don’t panic, because it’s not structural.

    LESLIE: Alright. Next up, we’ve got one from Chuck in Delaware who says he’s got a master-bath window with a crank that’s not working. And he wants to replace it but he also feels like the insulation is weak, because the window is cold all around this area.

    So, Chuck, what I’m thinking here is you can contact the window manufacturer. A casement window does operate on a crank system and they’ll probably be able to send you a crank replacement kit and you can swap that out. But I mean do you want to spend that money, since it does feel so cold? You can probably get an energy-efficient replacement casement for that bathroom for less than 200 bucks, so I say do it and be energy-efficient.

    TOM: You’ve been listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show on air and online at MoneyPit.com. Thank you so much for stopping by The Money Pit. The show continues online at MoneyPit.com. And remember, you can pick up the phone and call us any time of the day or the night; we never sleep. Well, I do but Leslie stays up and answers the phones at 888-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.


    (Copyright 2011 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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