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  • Transcript

    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete
    (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: Call us right now with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. We’re here to help you get those jobs done. We know you’ve got a list. We know it’s hot, we know it’s sticky, we know it’s the middle of summer. But we know there’s a project on your list you’ve got to get done and we are here to help you out.
    Speaking of summer, you know, when those storms roll in, lighting is often right behind. So coming up this hour, we’re going to have some tips on how to protect yourselves and your home and all of its electronics with a lightning protection system.
    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, repair versus replace, driveway sealant and leftover materials. Hmm. What might all of these home improvement terms have in common? Well, they’re all the names of the latest home improvement scams that are going on out there. We’re going to find out what they are and how to protect yourself when we welcome Craig Smith who is the CEO of ServiceMagic and he’s going to share some expert tips to help you not get ripped off this summer.
    TOM: And if you pick up the phone and call us right now with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, we will throw your name in the Money Pit hardhat for a chance to win a $50 gift card from Lowe’s courtesy of Therma-Tru, manufacturers of the beautiful Benchmark door available only at Lowe’s. So let’s get right to those phones. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974. Phones are filling up quick. Let’s get right to it.
    Leslie, who’s first?
    LESLIE: Time to talk flooring with Greg. What can we do for you?
    GREG: Hi, I have a situation where I’m going to replace the carpet in my living room …

    TOM: OK.

    GREG: … and I want to put a wood floor down and I’m looking at the carbonized bamboo that’s five-eights thick by about three-and-a-half inches wide.

    TOM: What’s the subfloor?

    GREG: And right now, even though I live in the northeast, New England area, I have a slab or concrete slab floor – no basement –

    TOM: OK.

    GREG: – and then a half-inch piece of plywood on top of that and then, of course, the carpet, which will come up. And I wanted to know if I could – you know, can fasten this wood floor to the half-inch plywood or do I need a thicker subfloor?

    TOM: Well, first of all, if you’re putting down any type of solid floor – I know this is bamboo so it’s not quite as susceptible to twisting as other types of solid hardwoods, but you better make darn sure that the manufacturer rates this for use over a concrete slab.

    LESLIE: Now I know Armstrong makes a bamboo flooring that’s similar to like an engineered hardwood. It’s constructed in the same way where it’s, you know, cross-ply-based technology with the bamboo on top so it’s perfectly made for on slab.

    TOM: Yeah, if it’s an engineered hardwood floor then you’re OK on a slab. If it’s solid, generally you cannot put it on a slab.

    GREG: OK, so if it’s a – meaning if it’s a solid wood …

    TOM: Right.

    GREG: … then you don’t recommend that.

    TOM: No, because there’s too much moisture in the slab and it will warp and twist. But if it’s an engineered hardwood, which is made sort of like plywood but out of better wood –

    GREG: Right.

    TOM: – and it looks like solid when you’re done – that’s OK for a concrete floor.

    LESLIE: And I know that the one for a concrete slab and I know the one that Armstrong makes is like a locking, snap-together technology that doesn’t need to be fastened down.

    GREG: Right, so it …

    LESLIE: It like sort of floats over your subfloor.

    GREG: Like a floating floor?

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    TOM: You would have a difficult time putting a traditional hardwood floor over if all you had to nail into was a ½-inch worth of plywood. There’s just not enough meat there to really secure it properly. So you probably want to look at an engineered floor with a lock-together technology that will essentially float on top of that.

    LESLIE: Beverly in Indiana needs some help with a painting project. What can we do for you?
    BEVERLY: Yes, thank you for taking my call. I’m dealing with an old frame house that has aluminum white siding on it and it is faded out and it just looks bad and I want to know if I can paint it and what would be the process.

    TOM: Hmm. Well you certainly can paint it and aluminum does start to fade, of course, over the years. What you’re going to want to do is you’re going to want to pressure wash that house to get as much of the loose paint off as possible. The next thing you’re going to want to do is prime it. Now priming is the most important step, Beverly.


    TOM: If it’s not primed properly the paint is not going to stick. I would use an oil-based, high-quality primer that’s designed to stick to aluminum and then I would put a topcoat over that.

    Now the best way to apply both a primer and the paint when you have aluminum siding is to have it sprayed.


    TOM: Because it can flow on much nicer than you can possibly brush it and get into all those nooks and crannies.

    BEVERLY: Oh, OK. Well, I thank you for taking my call and I had been told that I could not paint it because the paint would not adhere.

    TOM: Oh, no. That’s not true at all.

    LESLIE: The only thing you need to be concerned about is with latex paint because latex paint contains ammonia and sometimes when the ammonia comes into contact with the aluminum it can create a gas and then the gas causes bubbles and then that causes air to get underneath and then that sort of causes the whole thing to crack from underneath itself.

    BEVERLY: OK, I wrote all this down.

    TOM: Alright.

    BEVERLY: Thank you and have a good day.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Pick up the phone and give us a call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We can help you get all of your home improvement problems fixed very quickly. We promise you that. We know you’ve got a lot of things to do on your home improvement list; that’s why we’re here for you all the time. So give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    TOM: 888-666-3974.
    Up next, they’re the second most common cause of weather-related threats. We’re talking about lightning strikes. We’re going to have tips to help you protect yourself and your house, after this.

    (theme song)
    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 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’ve got a $50 Lowe’s gift card standing by; going to go to one caller that reaches us at the program today and you can use it toward a great investment in energy efficiency and curb appeal. It’s a Benchmark door by Therma-Tru, which is available exclusively at Lowe’s. And these doors have the look of wood with all the benefits of fiberglass; so that means no rotting, no warping, no swelling and no cracking and – I can’t say they’ll stand up to lightning strikes but they’ll probably handle just about everything else. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: Well, those fiberglass doors are certainly very well made and very well suited for summer storms and certainly a lot of moisture in the air. And regardless of where you live, we do see a lot of thunder and lightning storms and they can be a fairly common occurrence, especially in the summer months, around the United States. Hey, depending on where you live, you might get one of these storms everyday during the summer. In fact, every year, around 25 million storm-associated cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur in this country and they’re second only to floods among weather-related threats to life and limb. So to protect yourself, you’ll need what is known as a lightning protection system.
    TOM: Yeah, that’s right. And now there are basically three main components to an LPS, a lightning protection system: you’ve got the air terminals, the conductors and the ground. Now, the air terminals are what you would commonly refer to as the lightning rod.
    TOM: You know, placed at intervals sort of up on the home’s roof; at any sort of very high point that projects from it. They’re designed so the lightning can strike them rather than the house and then it runs the electricity down the conductors, which are the cables that go from the air terminals right down to the ground electrodes which basically take it to the earth. So, first it strikes the lightning rod; then it runs down the conductor, which is the cable, and right to the earth and stays away from your house.
    But for complete protection from lightning, you also need a network of connections that pretty much wrap in all of the other things that can be damaged or attracted to lightning. So we’re talking about things like vent fans, gutters, water pipes, your home electrical systems, your phone lines. There are a lot of mechanical systems and structural parts of the house that need to be tied together for total lightning protection and that’s why these are very specialized systems that need to be put together by pros. But once they’re done, they really do give you great protection from the amazing impact of a lightning bolt that would hit your house.
    LESLIE: So now, if you haven’t sought out a lightning protection system, is there nothing on your house?
    TOM: Pretty much. Yeah, you’re at risk of getting hit, just like anybody else. And you know, it’s interesting. I’ve seen lightning damage where it hit a house, got into the plumbing system and then, from there, sort of fried all these various areas of the house because, remember, all those copper pipes that run through our house; big, fat electrode right there.
    888-666-3974.   Let’s get right back to the phones.
    Leslie, who’s next?
    LESLIE: Tim in Texas could be on the verge of a hair-raising situation. You want to do some electrical work, my friend, huh?
    TIM: That’s correct.

    LESLIE: What can we do for you?

    TIM: Listen, I’ve got a two-story house, about 3,500 square feet, and it’s built in 1968 and it’s got aluminum wiring throughout the whole house.

    TOM: OK.

    TIM: And I’m trying to decide pigtail everything; do I reroute the entire aluminum wiring throughout the whole house because I’m getting the electrical outlets being shot; the expansion of the wires breaking; I’ve got to hire an electrician to fix it every time and find out where the break is in the line. Do you have any advice for me? Aluminum wiring, two-story house.

    TOM: Tim, probably the most practical solution is a type of connector called an AlumiConn connector – A-l-u-m-i-C-o-n-n. Their website is Alcopstore.com. What this connector does is it basically provides a housing where you can insert both ends of the aluminum wire, one piece of copper and then it’s sort of like a metal bridge and you screw these things down …

    TIM: Right.

    TOM: … and it pinches it. So it’s kind of like a crimp connector but it’s one that can be done mechanically with a screwdriver.

    TIM: Right. I’ve seen that done. We tried – we’ve got some simple pigtails done with a purple top; we screw them in together. But I’m getting breaks throughout the house; like maybe 15 feet into the outlet.

    TOM: So are these wires breaking down like sort of mid-span?

    TIM: Right and …

    TOM: Well then, listen. If your wiring is that bad you have to replace it.

    TIM: Yeah.

    TOM: There’s no point in repairing it any further. You need to replace it because you could create a fire hazard right in the middle of the wall somewhere.

    TIM: Oh, exactly. That’s what I’m worried about.

    TOM: Yeah, what I would do is I would start planning on replacing it; maybe do it in sections of the house; do the easiest stuff to access first.

    TIM: Right.

    TOM: But if you’re finding mid-wall breaks like that, which is probably the final stages of deterioration for this wiring, you definitely have to replace it.

    Now, by the way, the type of wiring that’s used for the heavy appliances in your house that’s aluminum, the 240-volt aluminum wiring, that’s OK. We’re only talking about the number 10, number 12 aluminum wiring that’s used for branch circuits.

    TIM: Number 10 and number 12?

    TOM: Right.

    TIM: OK. And should I go no less than a master electrician to do all this work?

    TOM: Absolutely. I would use an electrician for this.

    TIM: Yeah.
    LESLIE: Patricia in Florida is working on a staining project. What are you doing?
    PATRICIA: Well, I’m getting a bookcase which is all the natural wood …
    TOM: OK.
    PATRICIA: … self-stained type, you know? And looking at, you know, getting at it at different angles to do it. So I’m just wondering how that stain would work with this; that Krylon, I guess is what it’s called.
    TOM: Oh, the new spray stain in a can?
    PATRICIA: Yeah.
    TOM: Yeah. Well, I mean it’s a good stain product. Now, the bookcase that you’re doing, it’s unfinished right now; so it’s just the raw wood?
    PATRICIA: Mm-hmm, it’s the natural wood.
    TOM: OK.
    LESLIE: So there’s nothing on it. You shouldn’t have to sand it at all.
    TOM: Right. Yeah.
    PATRICIA: Uh-uh.
    LESLIE: Good.
    TOM: OK, so this is something that you can basically take and work on it outside or work on it in the basement or something like that, right?
    PATRICIA: Uh-huh.
    TOM: Well, OK. So the wood stain is a good product. It’s easy to use because it’s in a spray can but, you know, I mean you don’t have to use the spray can stain for this. You could use a traditional Minwax stain, for example, that you apply with a brush and wipe down. Either is fine but the key here is that the wood has to be unfinished and has to be natural and that’s what you have.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) And clean and dry.
    TOM: Yep, exactly.
    LESLIE: Yeah, a good test to make sure that there’s nothing on it – because I’m not sure if those unfinished wood stores may put like a wax or something just to protect it a little bit.
    TOM: Or a sealer.
    LESLIE: Yeah.
    TOM: Sometimes they’ll put a sanding sealer on it.
    LESLIE: You want to make sure – like take a little drop of water and sprinkle it on the wood surface. If the wood absorbs the water, then it’s ready to go. But if it doesn’t – if it sort of beads up or rolls away – then there’s something on there and you want to give it a light sanding and then wipe away all the dust and then make sure that it’s clean and clear and ready to go.
    TOM: Now Patricia, remember; when you’re done with the stain you’re going to have to coat it with a clearcoat finish. So for that, I would use a water-based polyurethane. It goes on sort of like a milky, white color but then it dries clear and it dries quickly as well.
    PATRICIA: OK. Alright.
    TOM: Alright, Patricia. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: Dominic in Brooklyn needs some help around the pool. What can we do for you?
    DOMINIC: Yes, ma’am. I’d like to know if you are aware of any product on the market that may help me clean the cement walkway around my pool.
    TOM: Yeah, is it getting kind of like mossy?
    DOMINIC: Well, I’ve used a power washer in the past and – not mossy but just like the dirt is just embedded in it; even after power washing it, it doesn’t come out …
    TOM: (overlapping voices) Right.
    LESLIE: When you power wash, Dominic, are you just using water? Have you not tried any sort of soapy solution or anything?
    DOMINIC: No, just basically water; maybe with a little bit of bleach.
    TOM: (overlapping voices) OK. Well, you might want to try either a lot of bleach or there’s a product called Jomax – J-o-m-a-x – that’s essentially a siding cleaner but it works well on sidewalks as well. And it’s a bleach product that will soak in and it will clean and kill the mildew that’s growing there so that when you follow up with the pressure washer, it will become brighter than ever before.
    DOMINIC: OK, fine. That’s great. I’m going to give it a try.
    TOM: Alright, Dominic. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: Joyce in Maryland is dealing with some walls that are cracking up. Tell us about the seams you’re seeing.
    JOYCE: Well, the previous owners had done a very poor job of putting the drywall up. Evidently, the firring strips are bigger than what need to be so when they put the drywall on they kind of bow in two seams and it’s very noticeable; especially when you have your table lamps on.

    TOM: Right.

    JOYCE: And I don’t know – is there are a way, other than tearing the whole wall down, to either camouflage it or to make it not so noticeable?

    TOM: Is it concave or convex?

    JOYCE: Well, let’s put it this way. The seams stick out.

    TOM: They stick out.

    JOYCE: They stick out further than they should.

    LESLIE: It seems like something’s missing from the middle.

    TOM: Well, you know, who knows what’s underneath that’s causing this buckle but short of cutting into the wall, what you could try to do is this: you could add some additional spackle and if you do it really well and very skillfully you can sort of feather out this area so that it’s not quite as aggressive a bump.

    JOYCE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: The other thing to do is to repaint it with a really good quality flat. Flat is very key; flat latex paint. Because the flat paint does not bounce the light around as much as other types of paint and it’s less likely to show up.

    JOYCE: That sounds like a better idea than tearing the wall down.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Oh, yeah.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Well, you can always go to that step next. (chuckles)

    JOYCE: Yeah. (chuckles)

    LESLIE: And then, Joyce, just don’t turn the lights on.

    TOM: There you go.

    JOYCE: Well, that’s the other option. (Leslie chuckles) But I’m learning so much from your show; things that I would have never even given a thought about, you know? So your show is really beneficial. I appreciate having you on. (chuckles)

    TOM: Thank you very much. It’s very kind of you. Joyce, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
    LESLIE: Jim in South Carolina needs some help with accessibility to an entrance of the home. What can we do for you?
    JIM: Well, I have a family member that’s going to be moving in with us and, unfortunately, my front foyer has about a four-inch lip. I have a patio entrance which, unfortunately, has sliding doors and again a step-in from the garage. And because she uses a motor scooter because she has poor balance, I’m trying to figure out how best to ramp the entrances and …

    TOM: Alright. Well, let’s talk about the patio door first. There’s a type of sill for that called a low profile sill but, unfortunately, it can’t be added after the fact. You’d have to order the door with the low profile sill, which is specifically designed for handicapped access.

    JIM: OK. Now, what about the front entrance? There’s about a three-inch step-up and, generally, when she visits right now I have to pull the back wheels, have her reverse and then pull the chair with the back wheels up so she can get over it and then she has to spin around and then come through the front door.

    TOM: So the total rise of sort of the step is only about three inches?

    JIM: Yep. Actually, three and a half, four inches.

    TOM: OK. Well, can’t you make a ramp just to cover that particular area and just make it remove-and-replaceable?

    LESLIE: There’s actually a good website that has removable ramps. They sell predominantly accessibility products and the website is HandiRamp.com. And there’s a whole section of threshold ramps that are portable, removable. They’re made to specifically just jump up that threshold.

    JIM: Great.

    TOM: And the AARP has a program that’s called a Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist. It’s their CAPS program. There are contractors out there that are specifically trained in these accessibility/easy-living issues and you can find one through the AARP website at AARP.org. Specifically, I would go to AARP.org/HomeDesign. That’s their home design section with information on the CAPS specialists.

    JIM: OK, great. Thanks so much.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Jim. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Coming up, when the economy goes south, scams go on the rise and this is certainly true of home improvement contractors as well. We’re going to have tips to help you avoid the most common home improvement scams, after this.

    (theme song)
    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 and we know a lot of you are out there right now dealing with the situation that we’re all faced with in our economy. You know, it is a much slower economy and there are more and more con artists out there who are unqualified home improvement contractors and they are, unfortunately, knocking on our doors and looking for work and they really don’t have your best home improvement interests in mind.
    TOM: Well, for details on the most recent home improvement service and professional scams and advice on how you can protect yourself and your family from scam artists on the prowl, we welcome Craig Smith, the CEO of ServiceMagic.com.
    Welcome, Craig.
    CRAIG: Thank you for having me.
    TOM: Our pleasure. Now, with the economy being slow, we certainly hear about more scams across all kinds of industries; home improvement certainly not immune. Talk to us about some of the most common home improvement scams you’re hearing about right now.
    CRAIG: Well, a lot of them are they’re too good to be true; the one-day-only sale type thing where a contractor will come door-to-door and say, “Hey, I have some extra material sitting around and I can do this for an extremely cheap price but I can only do it today.” Or you know, something that is really too good to be true and, as we know, when it sounds too good to be true it oftentimes is and we’re hearing more and more about that; which is why we recommend that you get up to three estimates and that you take your time checking out multiple contractors rather than jumping on something that seems to good to be true.
    TOM: Let’s talk about driveway sealants. That’s another common scam; been around for a long time. Any new twists on that one?
    CRAIG: You know, it’s really common this time of year because you come out of the deep freeze of the winter and the driveways are cracking and – so you end up with a lot of wanderers or travelers that are going through the neighborhoods – and it’s similar with landscaping as well – where they’ll apply a subpar sealant to the driveway that really does little to nothing and you need to replace it down the road.
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) It’s just a coating.
    CRAIG: Yeah, it’s – and sometimes it’s as egregious as just water. And similar with landscaping where it’s really not doing anything for you but somebody saw the big yard sign out in their neighbor’s yard and decided “Hey, I’m going to give them a call” but don’t think to check references; to do a background check on the business; make sure that they’re established within the community and so forth.
    LESLIE: I mean it’s just amazing to me that so many people are approached about these types of repairs and many do jump right on it without even thinking for a second and, of course, suffer the consequences. But another thing that we hear a lot about is someone knocks on your door and they’re offering the service but, you know, maybe it’s something that could have been repaired and all of a sudden you’re replacing something entirely. What are the pitfalls with that? When do you know is it OK to repair, to replace? How do you sort of walk that line without getting taken?
    CRAIG: Yeah, my advice is always to get multiple estimates and I know that from a – you know, we’re a time-strapped country and it’s hard to find time to do these kinds of things and bring people out to look at, say, your air conditioning unit this time of the year but it’s really important to do so because it will ultimately save you time and money down the road. And so, I highly recommend multiple estimates. I also recommend using a service like ServiceMagic.com or asking your neighbors about who they’ve used to find a strong recommendation rather than just picking up the Yellow Pages or seeing a big ad for somebody. You really want to do your homework before you make those kinds of decisions.
    LESLIE: Now Craig, when you do your homework, what are top three questions you ask the referral; if you’re calling somebody to be like, “What did you think of them? What was their price? Did they come in on budget?” Is there something that you should really focus on when double-checking these companies?
    CRAIG: Yeah. I think, you know, if you’re doing a larger model, it’s good to go see a project that’s in the midst of being done and actually see whether or not the worksite is clean and up to the specifications that you’d like as a homeowner and actually ask the homeowner if you can see their home and the work that’s been done.
    TOM: We’re talking to Craig Smith. He’s the CEO of ServiceMagic.com.
    Craig, you mentioned earlier, of course, saying it’s a good idea to get some references from your neighbors; but, you know, we don’t talk to our neighbors as much as we used to these days. Everybody is so busy. Talk to me about how ServiceMagic actually screens the pros that you guys list on your website and tries to answer some of those questions about their qualifications.
    CRAIG: Yeah, so at ServiceMagic.com, we take all of our professionals through a 10-point screening process. So we verify things like licensing, insurance. We do a background check on the business to see if they’ve had any bankruptcies, liens or judgments against them and then we also check references from homeowners who have worked with that pro in the past; verify that they’re not on the sex offender list. These are people that are going to come into your home for a substantial period of time and you may give your keys to and build a deep relationship with and so you really want to do your homework.
    And so we use that 10-point screening and then rely on our community. We have over 10 million homeowners who have used ServiceMagic and have provided ratings and review feedback on these businesses and in a culture that we really don’t know our neighbors as well as we did maybe 15 or 20 years ago, a service like ServiceMagic enables you to get that community feedback. We even allow you to ask questions of other homeowners that have worked with these pros through our platform and it’s a free service.
    TOM: That makes a lot of sense, Craig Smith, ServiceMagic.com CEO. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
    CRAIG: Thank you and thank you for having me.
    TOM: For more tips, you can go to the ServiceMagic website at ServiceMagic.com. Great service, great idea, great company.
    Thanks, Craig.
    LESLIE: Hey, you guys know Woody Woodpecker? You might remember him. He was a pretty popular cartoon when we were all growing up. But if you’ve got real woodpeckers pecking away at your house, they are not nearly as cute nor hilarious as the original Woody Woodpecker. (Tom and Leslie chuckle) So we’re going to have some tips on a very humane way that we promise will make them stay away for good, after this.

    (theme song)
    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Citrus Magic, the 100% natural odor-eliminating air freshener. Unlike other air fresheners, Citrus Magic actually eliminates odors and lasts up to four times longer. Visit CitrusMagic.com for more information. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.
    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 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Still got a $50 Lowe’s gift card sitting here. You can use it towards a great investment in energy efficiency and curb appeal by applying that towards a Benchmark door by Therma-Tru, available exclusively at Lowe’s. We’re going to give that away to one caller that reaches us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, so give us a call.
    LESLIE: Now here’s a topic that we do get a lot of questions about and that is, “How do I get rid of those woodpeckers that think my house is just the perfect place to build a nest to go and hunt for those yummy insects?” Well, for those of you who are dealing with those woodpeckers, you know it is annoying and you know that it is loud and you probably have a lot of headache medicine kicking around. (Tom chuckles) And fortunately for you, there are a number of humane, homemade control methods that can nudge Woody to a safe, alternative neighborhood. Here’s what you want to do.
    You want to take two or three of those 12-inch diameter tin or aluminum pie plates and then hang them in this area of your house that’s infested by Woody and allow them to blow freely in the wind. This method frightens those woodpeckers away as the reflections fool them into thinking that other predators are nearby and then they scram.
    Now here’s another effective method. You want to cut strips of black plastic – such as, you know, large garbage bags – and you want to cut those strips about two inches wide and two to three feet in length and then you tack them around the infestation area and you let them blow freely in the breeze. It just seems to scare the bejesus out of them. And we’re not saying leave them up forever – you know, Tom; you can take them down, right?
    TOM: Yeah, you absolutely can because they could possibly come back and you want to be sure, at that point – if you’ve got rid of them – that you repair any holes that they’ve created or seal up any voids that they could possibly return to nest in as well. So, good tip to send those woodpeckers packing.
    888-666-3974.   Let’s get back to the phones.
    Leslie, who’s next?
    LESLIE: Well, our number one question here at The Money Pit is flooring and adding to that number one-ness of the topic we’ve got Donna in Tennessee. What can we do for you?
    DONNA: What I’m interested in, we had a house built and currently I live in a 30-year-old home. And I want to get the most bang for my buck, so I’m wondering whether I should refloor in carpet or laminate; if that would – with the housing slump the way it is, I want to make sure that I’m going to get interested buyers.

    LESLIE: And what rooms would this be for? The entire first floor?

    DONNA: Yes. I’m a ranch on a basement and the basement is finished and I have new carpet down there and I didn’t know whether I should go with the laminate flooring or recarpet the top floor.

    LESLIE: OK, well Tom’s going to yell at you about the carpet in the basement but before he does, I think for the first floor of the home, I don’t know, I feel like carpeting is such a commitment. When you go wall-to-wall carpeting it’s a very stylistic choice – it’s an overwhelming color even if you go in a neutral tone; whereas if you do a laminate, which could be in the similar price range as a wall-to-wall carpeting depending on, you know, the type and the quality that you choose and with laminates it depends on, you know, a variety of things: the brands, the different levels of finishes on it. But a laminate can look like anything and you can really get some that duplicate the natural look of wood so well and that gives the buyer the opportunity to have a truly neutral, easy, cleanable surface that they can jazz up with throw rugs, area rugs and really make it their own.

    TOM: And the reason that carpet is not a good idea in the basement is because the basement is so damp, carpet essentially becomes mold food. Not only will you get potential mold that will grow there but it also becomes a place that can harbor all sorts of allergens: dust mites and different types of fungus.

    DONNA: Even if it has its own return for the basement area?

    TOM: Absolutely. Yep. Carpet is just not a good thing for a basement.

    DONNA: OK.

    LESLIE: A while ago, when I got my house, my husband and I moved in; there was carpeting in the basement and it was awesome and cozy and I loved it and we did everything to keep it dry and gutters got overwhelmed; downspouts not functioning; bad storm; basement flooded. That carpet was a disaster. And hopefully that never happens to you but it did happen to us and we put in a laminate floor and I love it.

    TOM: And also there’s a lot of folks that, you know, have carpet in their basements and then they have kids that are crawling on the carpet and the kids develop respiratory issues. So it’s just not a good idea …

    DONNA: OK.

    TOM: … for a whole bunch of reasons. Stay with a hard surface flooring.

    DONNA: OK. Now, laminate, as far as for basements, if it gets wet – like, for instance, you said yours flooded – that damages the laminate?

    LESLIE: Not at all.

    TOM: No.

    LESLIE: It’s made for a moist environment.

    DONNA: OK.

    TOM: And it’s easy to clean and it wears like the dickens, too.

    DONNA: OK.
    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
    Up next, Uncle Sam wants to help you pay for some energy-saving home improvement projects with some of these federal tax credits but there are a number of companies out there who are now claiming they can help you get those tax credits but don’t have a clue how to do it. We’re going to give you what you need to know to make sure you can take advantage of the money that’s waiting for you from Uncle Sam, after this.

    (theme song)
    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.
    TOM: And before we jump into the e-mail bag, I got a story, Leslie, and a lesson on how not to get ripped off …
    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) (inaudible at 0:31:21.7)
    TOM: … by these companies who are claiming to help you with home improvement projects that can qualify for the federal energy tax credits that are out there.
    LESLIE: Interesting.
    TOM: I was driving around this week and I heard a – started to hear the campaign from a window company that was advertising Energy Star windows; that you should put them in and you can get federal tax credits and I know that that’s not true. And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with the Energy Star window program; I just happen to know, because I’ve studied this stuff, that just having an Energy Star window does not qualify you for the tax credits. And it’s something that’s very confusing and these people are making it worse by trying to sell windows that they’re alleging will qualify you for the 30-percent tax credit that’s out there because the window is Energy Star-rated and, in fact, the requirements are actually more stringent than Energy Star to get the tax credit.
    You have to have what’s called a 30-30 rating. The window has to have a solar heat gain coefficient of .3 and it has to have a U factor of .30 and if it doesn’t have that 30-30 rating, it’s not going to qualify for the tax credit. So be careful what you’re buying. If you have any questions, you can actually download the window guide that we wrote; the replacement window guide that spells this out that’s available for free at MoneyPit.com. It’s sponsored by Simonton; they helped up put it together and it’s got all the information you need for a window replacement project and getting it covered by the federal tax credits – or any other project: insulation, doors, skylights.
    Go to the website for the Alliance to Save Energy at ASE.org. They’ve got great advice there on all of the requirements. Just make sure you do your homework, folks. Don’t necessarily listen to the commercials because these guys don’t always get it right.
    LESLIE: Alright, now we’ve got an e-mail from Jennifer in Illinois who’s getting ready to do some work on a basement and wants to know do you need to pull permits – should we, should we not – and what happens if I don’t.
    TOM: Well, if it comes time to sell your house, Jennifer, you could be kind of in deep trouble. It’s always a good idea to get the proper building permits because not only will you have the inspector from the town that can help you make sure it’s done right, done safe; but if you go to sell your house – as a home inspector, I always told my clients to check the building permit file and if I saw a basement that was remodeled or a deck was built and there’s no building permit for that, major red flag; you don’t need that. So always a good idea to get the proper permits before you start any home improvement project.
    LESLIE: Alright, Jennifer. I hope that’s the answer you were looking for.
    TOM: Well, how’d you like to get a bit more organized? I know I would and Leslie’s going to help us do just that, with the help of some very innovative paint, on today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.
    LESLIE: That’s right and here’s a tip that can actually deliver instant organization – and here’s a number you’re going to like – for under 50 bucks. Here’s what you can do. You can paint the side of a freestanding bookcase or a cabinet or even a dresser with a layer of magnetic paint. Didn’t know about that one? Well, it’s out there and it’s just like paint except what you want to do is when you’re using it, you want to make sure that you mix it frequently and that’s going to ensure that as you’re painting, you get even areas of magnetism because once your magnetic layer of paint is dry, you’re going to add a topcoat of color that will match your creativity, your imagination, that room. And if you don’t mix it frequently, you’re going to get areas that hold the magnets and areas that don’t. So just, as you’re working with it, keep mixing it and keep applying it and that’ll ensure that you can put your magnets everywhere.
    Then you can attach your important notices, your invitations, assignments, family photos or even just showcase your prized magnet collection from your friends who love to travel the globe and bring you back these magnets. You know, we did a home makeover for this new A&E show that I’ve been working on and this lovely young lady that we worked with out in Seattle had – I don’t know – 500 magnets.
    TOM: Really? Like that’s the one thing that she likes to collect when she goes?
    LESLIE: Yeah. And her friends like have a contest to see who can bring back like the kookiest magnet from the furthest-away place. So there were some really unusual ones (Tom chuckles) and she ran out of so much space. So if you’ve got a magnet collection, this is the project for you.
    Now this great project comes from the pages of our book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure, and we’ve got lots more great ideas in there for you. So check it out today at MoneyPit.com.
    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. That’s all the time we have. Thank you so much for spending this hour. The show does continue online at MoneyPit.com.
    I’m Tom Kraeutler.
    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
    TOM: Remember, you can do it yourself …
    LESLIE: But you don’t have to do it alone.

    (theme song)
    (Copyright 2009 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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