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Home Improvement Tips & Advice

  • 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: Making good homes better at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. What are you doing? What are you working on? Give us a call. Let us help you get the job done. It’s a great hour. It’s a great idea. And we’ve got some great tips in store for you, starting with do you work from home? Is it a home office? If so, you might need more than one phone line. And installing one is actually something you can do yourself.

    LESLIE: Yeah, you don’t have to climb that big pole outside?

    TOM: No, and I think the pricing for the utility companies to do this is so high they’re trying to encourage do-it-yourselfers. (Leslie chuckles) We’ll give you some tips on how you can get more with less and possibly extend the line that you have right now into multiple lines in your house.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, when you are weatherproofing your home, remember that rain doesn’t always fall straight down and that leaks don’t always have to come from straight over your head. We’re going to help you track down all the ways that water can get into your house a little later.

    TOM: And you don’t have to have a green thumb to go green in your garden. We’re going to teach you how to cut down on resources and still have the best darn looking backyard on the block with tips from our green scene reporter coming up in just a few minutes.

    LESLIE: And this hour, we’re giving away a Ryobi One+ hand planer. It’s worth $100. It’s great for all wood surfaces around the house; whether you’re trimming down that door that’s dragging or even if you have to smooth down some of your wood flooring.

    TOM: So call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Kevin in New Jersey wants to talk paint. What can we do for you today?

    KEVIN: I have asbestos shingles and they look not really great and I’d like to paint them but I just don’t know what kind of paint to use; if it needs to be primed; if it needs to powerwashed first or …

    TOM: Well, it’s never a bad idea to prime anything before you paint it.

    LESLIE: I wouldn’t powerwash it. If you’re powerwashing them would that break up the particles and …

    TOM: You know, I think it’s OK to powerwash it to clean it. You’re going to want to make sure – because asbestos tends to get very, very mildewy. So you’re probably going to want to use a house wash and you’re going to probably want to clean it and I think it’s OK to powerwash it to do that. After it dries thoroughly, then it’s a good idea to prime them. And after you prime them you can use a standard house paint.

    You know, the nice thing about asbestos shingles is they never rot.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And they’re so durable.

    TOM: And they’re also – believe it or not, exterior asbestos shingles are actually quite safe; as long as you don’t break them up.

    KEVIN: Right.

    TOM: Now, they’re really completely neutral when they’re on your house and there’s no asbestos fibers to worry about escaping because that’s a type of asbestos we call cement asbestos where it’s held …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. It’s bound into the cement.

    TOM: … inside the cement. Exactly. And it’s inside of the – the asbestos is inside of the cement so it’s not going to get out. So it’s just a basic paint job. Do a good job on the cleaning. Make sure they’re very dry. Prime them then paint them and you’ll be good to go.

    LESLIE: And you know what? Now’s a good time also, when you’re doing just the basic maintenance outside, look around your windows and your doors and if you see any of the caulk has dried out around the framework, peel out the old, put in some new, really take the time to just button up everything and your house will be energy efficient for the upcoming fall and also look really great once you’ve got it all painted up.

    KEVIN: Alright. Well I thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Marybeth in Nebraska finds The Money Pit on KFOR and there seems to be some structural issues going on. How can we help?

    MARYBETH: Well, hi. I have a brick wall on the outside of my house and I think what’s happening is a footer is shifting as the weather freezes and thaws. And I have cracked masonry on the outside, which I repaired about 10 years ago. And now it’s cracked again. And my inside window frame is also showing some cracking. So I wondered if you had any thoughts about that.

    TOM: Well first of all, the footer is supposed to be below the frost line so that would not be moving if it expands and contracts. Now, the masonry that you repaired 10 years ago, are you seeing that that gap – obviously you must have put something in this opening? Is that what’s going on?

    MARYBETH: Exactly.

    TOM: And how did you repair it? Did you use a sealant or something in there?

    MARYBETH: First time, I had a mason come in and he redid it with cement.

    TOM: Right.

    MARYBETH: But now I just did it with, you know, the grout.

    TOM: Well see, unless you’re using like an epoxy-based product or a urethane-based product that expands and contracts, this cracking is always going to happen. Because obviously the crack formed in a stressed part of the wall. So you’re getting expansion and contraction due to the weather. If the wall is going to open up it’s going to open up where it’s already cracked. So if you put something in that has no flex, like mortar or grout, you’re going to get the crack reform every single time. If you use something that’s flexible, like an epoxy patching compound or something of that nature, it’s not …

    LESLIE: That’ll seal the crack and move with it.

    TOM: … it’s not going to open up. Right.

    MARYBETH: OK. So actually, that’s the better way to go. Excellent.

    TOM: Yeah, yeah. It seems like you would want to patch masonry with masonry but it’s really not a good idea. You need something that’s going to bend and sort of go with the flow.

    MARYBETH: OK. Well, that’s wonderful. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Listening in on WABC we’ve got Leo in New Jersey. What can we do for you?

    LEO: Hi. I have a question about baseboard heating covers.

    TOM and LESLIE: OK.

    LEO: After doing some research, I found out that basically the possibilities are endless. You can get everything custom. So my question is when do you start messing with efficiency? As far as changing the size of it?

    TOM: That’s a good question. Now the – first of all, these are baseboard units? These aren’t full-size radiators, right?

    LEO: No.

    TOM: Alright.

    LESLIE: Are they aluminum or are they cast iron?

    LEO: The originals are aluminum.


    TOM: OK. Well yeah, because if you had cast iron we’d tell you to walk away from it. When do you start messing with efficiency? Well, I guess when you cut down air flow. It’s real important that you maintain the air flow around these. So you have to have space for the air to get under it, go across the fins and then out the top. Now most basic radiator covers have a vent that sort of tilts where you can open and close it.

    LEO: Right.

    TOM: I think as long as you maintain the air flow you’re probably OK. You know, the old steam radiators – it used to be in vogue to have custom covers made for those. But steam radiators, if you touched them, they would burn your hand because they got super, super hot. And so people would put these covers on them. That really did affect the efficiency. They weren’t nearly as efficient with those covers on as they would have been if they were off. But it was a solution for a practical problem; especially if you had kids. But with baseboard, as long as you keep good air flow around it, I think that’s the key to the efficiency.

    LEO: Yes, because the object basically is to make it as small as possible because they’re quite unsightly.

    LESLIE: Oh yeah, they really are. And the aluminum ones, you want to make sure that you keep a good space around it also. This way you get good air flow plus you’re also then not hindering the movement of the heat out.

    TOM: Leo, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Mike in Virginia finds The Money Pit on WJFK. What’s going on at your house?

    MIKE: Well, the problem I have right now is the outdoor outlets that go around my house to plug up electrical products?

    TOM: OK.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    MIKE: Right now – around Christmas I was able to plug up the Christmas decorations but [the outlet’s] (ph) in the rear and now the outlets in the front of the house don’t work.

    TOM: They’re not working. So none of the outside outlets are working. How old is your house, Mike?

    MIKE: Let’s say 17 years.

    TOM: OK. I’m going to be willing to bet that somewhere in your home you have a ground fault circuit breaker. Now, a ground fault circuit breaker could be …

    LESLIE: Would that not be anywhere near your regular circuit breaker?

    TOM: It may or it may not be but it’s most likely – because I’m sure you checked your circuit breakers, right Mike?

    MIKE: Oh, I did several times.

    TOM: OK. Somewhere in your home there’s going to be an outlet with a test and a reset button in the outlet. It’s probably going to be in your garage; one of the garage wall outlets or it could be one of the bathroom outlets. And I bet you that when you find that outlet the reset button on it is going to be out and you’ll need to push it back in and activate those outlets. Because sometimes with ground fault circuits – and these are outside outlets, bathroom outlets, basement outlets, garage outlets – they wire them into one of these ground fault circuit interrupters that’s actually part of an outlet in another part of the house. The first place I would check is the garage. Do you know what I mean when I say ground fault? The kind without the – with the two buttons on it?

    LESLIE: The test and reset button that’s usually black and red.

    MIKE: No.

    TOM: Well, this is a problem, Mike. (laughs)

    MIKE: Yeah, that’s one of them. Yeah.

    TOM: Yeah. No, I’m serious. You’ve got to find the outlet. There’s going to be an outlet somewhere with a test and a reset button in it. You’re going to press the reset button back in and you’re going to have power in the outside outlets.

    LESLIE: Buttons are in between the receptacles.

    TOM: Yep.

    LESLIE: It’s like an extra space in the middle.

    TOM: Go look for the outlet. I bet you you’re going to find it. And call us back and let us know we were right.

    MIKE: That sounds good. I will.

    TOM: (chuckling) OK, Mike?

    MIKE: Hey, thanks.

    TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    You know, in those years I spent as a home inspector, I used to get that call all the time where people go, ‘I just moved into my house and the outlets aren’t working!’ ‘And did you check your breaker?’ And I go – they go, ‘Yeah.’ I say, ‘Well, find the ground fault.’ ‘Well that’s not it.’ I’m like, ‘Find the ground fault.’ ‘Well that’s not it.’ ‘So you got a cordless phone? Walk to the garage? Push the button.’ ‘Oh, yeah. That’s it.’ (chuckling)

    LESLIE: ‘Hey, they’re working.’

    TOM: ‘It’s working again.’

    LESLIE: What about if you have the outlets on the outside have the test and reset button but then they’re not working?

    TOM: Well, then – let’s see. If it’s on the outside, there should – if it’s wired right, there will be one of those for multiple outlets in most cases. And if you reset it there and then it’s not working, then there could be another one somewhere else that’s affecting it or it could be in the breaker panel itself. But that would be very unusual, Leslie. Typically, all of the outlets on the outside are wired to the ground fault that’s in the garage.

    LESLIE: Alright. So Mike, put on your detective hat.

    Hey, home improvement fans. Is springtime wreaking havoc on your home? Well, we can help. Call in your home improvement or your home repair questions anytime you feel like it, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Just call us up. We’re here for you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: Up next, are you a telecommuter? Many of us are right now. And are you suffering through just having a single phone line in your house? Well, it’s actually easy to extend your phone service into multiple lines. We’ll give you the trick of the trade after this.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: Stay-Green lawn care products and gardening supplies provide practical solutions for seasonal lawn and garden needs at value prices. Stay-Green products are available exclusively at Lowe’s and come with a written guarantee printed on every package and label. The complete line of Stay-Green fertilizers, growing media, weed controls and grass seed help keep lawns looking beautiful year round and are the perfect blend of science and technology at an affordable price.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And we believe a leather tool belt is considered high fashion on this show. (Leslie chuckles) So get your tools out. It’s time to get to work.

    LESLIE: I know. I’m always like, ‘Ooh, my beautiful Ridgid power driver is really gorgeous.’ It’s like you know you’re a diva when you’re looking at your fancy tool belt. And you don’t have to be just a girl to be a diva. You just have to love your tools and use them well.

    Alright, folks. Well if you call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and if you ask your question on air – so be brave, think about what you’re working on – one caller that we’re going to talk to is going to win a Ryobi One+ hand planer. It’s got two carbide blades. It offers a smooth job. And it’s going to put you well on your way to assembling a power tool arsenal that’s all going to work off of one battery and charger. It’s worth 100 bucks so it’s a big prize so call in now.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    OK, so let’s talk a bit about those home offices. You know, most telephone wiring can handle more than one phone line because the wire itself contains multiple conductors. So adding a second phone line does not always require the installation of additional wire. Many times, you can open up the phone lines that you have right now, split the conductors and usually put two, three or sometimes even four different phone lines on a single wire. So don’t think that if you need an extra phone line it’s a big deal. It’s not. It can be handled literally in minutes with a service call from the phone company or from an electrician; can hook you right up.

    Got more home improvement questions just like that? Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Serena in Florida’s having some issues with her money pit. How can we help?

    SERENA: Hi. I’m wondering if you can give me some advice. I have a contract with a builder – April 4th, 2005 – to build me a house. And since then, all I have right now is four walls and a lawsuit. One of the subcontractors is suing the builder and, of course, being the owner, I’m also being sued. And my builder explained to me it’s because the subcontractor made a mistake and he doesn’t want to pay him because it cost him more to fix the problem.

    LESLIE: But now you’re stuck in the middle with no home and two years of waiting and a potential lawsuit against you as well.

    SERENA: That is correct. (inaudible) today some information from my builder where he’s saying that my house can be completed by June and he’s also offering to pay my rent since I’ve been inconvenienced. I just moved to the U.S. actually.

    TOM: Wow. Well, do you have an attorney?

    SERENA: I just got an attorney last Friday.

    TOM: Yeah, good idea. (chuckling) Back up for me for a minute. Who is suing you and why?

    SERENA: Well, the subcontractor that put the foundation of the house and the four walls, he put it two feet too close to the neighbor of the back.

    TOM: So the neighbor is now suing you because they say that the house is too close?

    SERENA: No, no. It’s against city codes.

    TOM: OK.

    SERENA: And so my contractor had already had (inaudible) and so in order to fix that problem he said he had to remove the (inaudible) and that was labor and (inaudible) I would have to throw away. And then we have to break down the offending wall. There was a (inaudible) …

    TOM: So why is this your fault? That’s what I’m not following. Why is this your fault?

    SERENA: Because I’m the owner. The subcontractor is suing the builder and me.

    TOM: Well, the subcontractor may be suing the builder and you but why – I don’t understand why it’s your fault.

    SERENA: I don’t get it either. Why (inaudible).

    TOM: Yeah, you know what? This is maybe what we call the legal shotgun approach. They basically just …

    LESLIE: They sue everybody and then weed it out as it goes along.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) … sue everybody and let the chips fall where they may. They try to find out who’s got insurance; who’s got the deep pocket. Your best bet is what you’ve already done and that is to hire a lawyer. Because you clearly are not at fault here. And as far as the builders are concerned with promising you living expenses and things like that, I mean that’s the appropriate thing to do. I would just tell you …

    LESLIE: And get it all in writing.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. I would absolutely tell you …

    LESLIE: Get it all in writing under legalese with your attorney. This way – you know, I’m sure your builder has the best of intentions and will pay for those expenses. But make sure you get it in writing and make sure you try to get it with a payment timeline so you know exactly when you’re getting what so you’re not left in the dark waiting for some funds that may or may not come.

    TOM: And another idea is to put a penalty clause in any type of settlement like this with the builder so that if he doesn’t make a certain date then you get additional funds for your inconvenience.

    Serena, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: We’re about to talk vinyl siding with James in New York. What’s going on and how can we help?

    JAMES: Hi, Tom and Leslie. This is Jim from New York.

    LESLIE: Hi, Jim.

    TOM: How can we help you, Jim?

    JAMES: Hi. Yeah, listen. I’m just curious. I have a question; like your opinion on – I’m considering a remodeling project on my home. And considering refacing the outside of the house with vinyl siding.

    TOM: OK.

    JAMES: But my real question is the – I’m considering the new – this new solid core vinyl siding material; you know, versus the traditional siding material that, you know, that includes the backer board …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    JAMES: … or the foam board.

    TOM: Right.

    JAMES: Just wondering, really, what your opinion was on the solid core vinyl siding and if there were any advantages or disadvantages of that versus, you know, the traditional hollow core siding material.

    TOM: Well, when you say solid vinyl siding are you talking about one that has an insulation product built into it?

    JAMES: That’s correct.

    TOM: Alright. Well, generally speaking, I don’t have a high opinion of insulation as part of the vinyl siding project. And the reason for that is because the insulation in the siding, even when they use those backer boards, adds so little to the overall energy efficiency of the wall that it’s generally not worth the expense. Now, having said that, there could be any other benefits to this more solid product and that is you may have a bit less warping and twisting and some of the other things about vinyl that, you know, don’t make it look so hot sometimes.

    JAMES: Right.

    TOM: But in terms of insulation, I would take the energy efficiency out of the financial equation. If you like it for all the other reasons, buy it. If you’re liking it because you think it’s going to save you money, forget it because it probably won’t. The added cost usually doesn’t make sense.

    LESLIE: A little bit of what I’ve seen about the differences, as well as that, this new solid core ups the impact resistancy as well by sometimes up to 300 percent. So if you ever get any hail or, you know, kids playing with balls around the property – and I think they’re also more low-maintenance; whereas with traditional siding you would have to replace it over time, the newer solid core tends to be a lot more durable from what I’ve read. The solid core also carries the Energy Star label which, again, if you do this work to your home within ’07, you can file for the tax credit at the end of the year.

    TOM: How much more expensive is this over traditional vinyl?

    JAMES: You know what? It’s about a wash. I’m comparing it …

    TOM: Oh, really?

    LESLIE: Really?

    TOM: If it’s a wash …

    JAMES: It’s a wash.

    TOM: … then I wouldn’t – then I don’t think there’s any reason to not do it. If they were charging you a lot more money because of the insulation elements, that’s what concerns me because a lot of the siding contractors are really marking this up to the point where it’s not possibly going to be cost effective. You would never get a return on investment. But if it’s the same price as regular vinyl, then do it. Like we said, there are other advantages to it. You know, it’s different. It has more impact resistance.

    LESLIE: Well it’s going to lay nicer as well. And it’s then easier to install if you don’t have to worry about any sort of unevenness with the exterior.

    JAMES: Right. Now certainly a concern of mine was the look of the material on the house. So right now I have real wood cedar shake on the house and I’m really trying to find something that’s as close to at least, you know, the real thing or looks like wood as possible and this seems to be the closest.

    TOM: Well, I will tell you that if you’re looking for something that looks like wood you ought to look at hardy plank. I put hardy plank on my home and I have a very old home with wood siding and we built a garage and we put hardy plank on the garage. And the siding there looks just like the real wood shingles. It’s hard to really tell it apart, James.

    JAMES: OK. Good advice.

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

    LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit. Up next, ways to go green outside. We’re going to tell you how to save water and dollars when you are doing your spring gardening and landscaping. So stick around.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Aprilaire, makers of professionally-installed, high-efficiency air cleaners. For more information, go to Aprilaire.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. What are you doing? What are you working on? If you’re working outside, maybe you’re getting ready to plant that garden of your dreams. We’ve got a great guest coming up. We’re going to talk about a topic that is near and dear to all of our wallets; the cost of watering. How do you choose a garden that’s really going to make sense and not cost you a pile of money; especially when it comes to the environment?

    LESLIE: That’s right, Tom. And with spring and summer – you know, spring is here; summer is just around the corner – we’re bound to see an increase in water usage. That’s why our next guest is so important. Joining us from her perch is our certified tree hugger in Northern California. We’ve got Aimee Oscamou, who is our green scene reporter, joining us today.

    So Amy, we’re going to be watering a lot. How much water are we using? I mean what does this really add up to?

    AIMEE OSCAMOU: Oh, man. You know, during the spring and summer months, it can add up to nearly half of your total water bill.

    TOM: Wow.

    AIMEE OSCAMOU: So it’s really something to consider.

    TOM: Man, that is a lot. Well, let’s say we’re going to start from scratch now. Now, in my situation, we actually when we bought this house we had a garden and it’s turned out that we didn’t make good choices in terms of the amount of sun exposure. We’re considering to relocate this. If somebody’s starting from scratch or maybe they want to relocate a garden, what are the considerations that you really have to think about to try to minimize the amount of water you’re going to actually use?

    AIMEE OSCAMOU: Keep an eye on your yard and the light patterns within it. You want to have that kind of garden I think you’re talking about, Tom, in a place that’s going to get a lot of sun exposure. So first consider that. Then go and pick plants that are appropriate to the different areas within the garden.

    TOM: So when you say pick plants that are appropriate to the different areas, are there plants that need less water, for example, that you might want to consider?

    AIMEE OSCAMOU: Yes, there are. There are some that are going to require more; some less. It’s called hydro zoning. You group plants together according to their water needs.

    LESLIE: This way you’re not unnecessarily watering, you know, areas of your garden that don’t need it as often, right?

    AIMEE OSCAMOU: Right, right.

    LESLIE: Now, what about the soil? I know – and I don’t know if I’m ever doing the right thing because I really have a terrible time with my garden but I’m trying mulching. Does that really help contain the water and keep the water uniform and moist on the soil?

    AIMEE OSCAMOU: Yes. Mulch is a great way to hold in that moisture that you’re giving your plants. And another thing you should do before you even apply the mulch is amend that soil so that the plant’s roots can really easily drink in the water you’re giving. Then a little mulch on top and that should stay there through most of the season and you can amend it as needed.

    TOM: Amend it.

    LESLIE: Only if it sort of blows away.

    TOM: It sounds like governmental action. We’re going to amend the soil. (Leslie chuckles) Mr. Chairman, I’d like to amend that soil (chuckling) before we put the plants in.

    Well let’s talk about once the plants are in. Let’s say you’ve made the right choices and now we want to choose the type of watering system. If we have hydro zoned, will we be choosing different watering systems for different areas? For example, would one area be suitable for sort of a drip system that just attacks the roots whereas the other area may have more of a traditional sprinkler? How do we choose the right watering system for our house? And are there ways that we can limit the water to basically come up with just enough to do the job?

    AIMEE OSCAMOU: Yes, you can put together a great system where different areas are regulated by timers, different water needs. There are different systems out there that can either be done by the homeowner or you can get a pro involved if you’ve got a really complicated backyard environment with lots of different watering zones in it.

    And then also consider the time of day you’re watering. You’ll want to water in the morning hours and avoid times when it’s windy out when it’s going to send your water everywhere but to the plant.

    LESLIE: And is it really based on if the soil just feels dry or just seriously if it says water every three days on that type of plant? Because I never know.

    AIMEE OSCAMOU: You know, it’ll maybe take a little testing time with your plantings to see how they react. And you know, some smart irrigation systems can even do that sensing for you with the special sensors that are located throughout the garden. But keep an eye on it for a few days or to a week. Kind of see what the routine is so that those plants aren’t losing out on the water [by your water savings] (ph).

    TOM: Now that’s like the ultimate lazy man’s garden; like the garden tells you exactly when it needs to be watered and it just happens. (chuckling)

    AIMEE OSCAMOU: (overlapping voices) Yeah.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) But I don’t think that’s lazy. I think that’s smart because then it knows what it needs instead of me being like, ‘Well, I’ll water today. I don’t know.’

    AIMEE OSCAMOU: Well, take advantage of those great products out there and also remember, water sense labeling is coming to irrigation systems. So that’ll help you out even more.

    TOM: And that of course is the EPA’s program that helps us identify which irrigation systems, in this case, are going to be the most cost effective when it comes to water conservation.

    AIMEE OSCAMOU: Correct.

    TOM: Amy Oscamou is on the green scene. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit. Great information as always.

    LESLIE: Hey, Money Pit listeners. Well, we’ve seen a lot of big storms in recent years. Lots of damage, lots of big storms and who knows what this storm season is bringing us. Well, the one thing that I’ve noticed is that homeowners who were well prepared often suffer the least amount of damage. Coming up, we’re going to tell you how to take extra measures to protect your home’s windows and doors. So stay with us.

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    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Therma-Tru, the nation’s leading manufacturer of fiberglass entry and patio door systems. Choose the brand more building professionals prefer. And add up to $24,000 to the perceived value of your home. For more information, visit ThermaTru.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement or home repair question. One caller who gets on the air with us this hour is going to win the Ryobi One+ hand planer worth 100 bucks. It’s a great woodworking tool. It’s a recent addition to Ryobi’s popular 18-volt tool lineup. So if you want to win it, you’ve got to call. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, storm season is going to be here before you know it and now is the perfect time to prepare for it. And one important way to protect a home’s windows and doors from the effects of a severe storm is to use premium weather barrier construction materials. Now, these weather barriers, they’re designed to prevent winds, wind-driven rains and moisture from entering your home.

    Also, you want to make sure you seal the gaps around your windows and doors. Drafts and moisture can easily pass through these openings even if they’re really, really tiny and they can cause damage and even promote mold growth behind your walls where you can’t see it and pose a potential health hazard. Properly flashing windows with a self-adhered product can close those gaps and prevent that water, air and moisture infiltration. It could also help make a super energy efficient home.

    TOM: That’s right because it’s not just about having good windows. You can’t have gaps around the windows.

    You know, there’s a really good website with more information about weatherproofing your home’s weak spots. It’s GraceAtHome.com. G-r-a-c-e-A-t-H-o-m-e.com. You can find product information as well as weatherproofing tips. It’s just a mouse click away at GraceAtHome.com.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Michael in New Jersey finds The Money Pit on WABC. What’s going on at your money pit?

    MICHAEL: The problem that I’m having is we have an oil burner that is used for water and baseboard heating. And what’s happening is I get soot – it’s in the basement (clears throat) but in the living room and upstairs in one of the bedrooms is a lot of black; there’s a lot of soot.

    TOM: Hmm.

    MICHAEL: And I just – we don’t know what’s wrong; you know, why that’s happening. We had to paint it like maybe four months ago and there’s still a lot of blackness in certain areas of the house; you know, on the ceilings and on the walls.

    TOM: You have a hot water heating system?

    MICHAEL: Yes.

    TOM: OK. And when you say there’s blackness on the upstairs, are you seeing this on the walls where you see sort of a striping effect?

    MICHAEL: On the walls, on the television we can see it and on the walls it’s – and you know, the thing is, we had our boiler checked out. We have an annual maintenance and everything checked out …

    TOM: Right.


    MICHAEL: … right. But I just can’t figure out – my wife can’t figure out why all this black soot …

    LESLIE: Is it a new boiler or have you had this for a while?

    MICHAEL: No, it actually – it’s an oil boiler. It’s an oil burner. It must be about 12 years old but they told me it’s in excellent condition.

    TOM: Alright. Well, a couple of things. First of all, on the walls and the ceiling, do you see sort of striping? Where these deposits are?

    MICHAEL: I asked my wife that. (chuckling) No, no, no striping at all.

    TOM: Now when you say you see deposits, you mean – can you put your hand over it and it comes off on your hand?

    MICHAEL: Oh, yeah. My wife she’ll just take a towel and …

    TOM: Alright, well listen. You have a problem, obviously, and it sounds to me like there could be some backdrafting of this. You could be getting some sooting that’s getting back into there. You may have some air pressure changes in the house. If your upstairs is depressurized, it could be pulling combustion gas up into the house. It could, frankly, be unsafe. So I think you’re going to have to have this boiler checked out again. And you want to make sure that they do a draft test on it. There’s a device that gets inserted – it’s called a draft gauge and it’s inserted into the side of the flue pipe on an oil flue. And it makes sure that the draft is actually moving where you think it’s moving and you can actually measure the efficiency of the system by checking the draft on it. That’s most likely what’s happening here and it could be unsafe. All of these combustion deposits should not be wafting back into your house.

    By the way, the reason I asked you if it was striping is because very often you’ll get these lines on walls and ceilings where it’s darker in the area directly under the ceiling joist or directly across from the wall stud because those areas are colder than the adjoining walls and you get this condensation effect where it sort of sticks in uneven areas. But if you’re getting this sort of general around-the-house and I’m assuming that you don’t like burn lots of candles, do any type of activity that would cause carbon …

    MICHAEL: I had it checked out not too long ago by a reputable chimney service. It has a clay lining.

    TOM: No, no. Not a chimney service. Not a chimney service. I want you to have an HVAC technician check this out. Not a chimney service.

    MICHAEL: I believe he is licensed.

    TOM: Well, don’t believe, OK? You’ve got to make sure.


    TOM: Because a chimney contractor is not going to have any clue when it comes to the proper function of your oil-fired boiler. You need a heating ventilation and air conditioning expert for that. Trust me. Those guys are not technicians in the functionality of your heating equipment.

    MICHAEL: Oh.

    TOM: They can check the chimney and make sure it’s clean. But they’re not going to have any clue as to whether or not it’s burning efficiently, whether it’s backdrafting or not and so on. So you need to have a heating technician check the boiler; not a chimney guy check the chimney.

    MICHAEL: Oh boy, am I glad I called. Whoa, yes. I took it for granted that they would know this.

    LESLIE: No.

    TOM: Absolutely not, Michael. You’ve got to get the right technician there. And again, check that draft and do me a favor. Get a carbon monoxide detector, too. You ought to have one to protect yourself.

    MICHAEL: OK. I certainly will. Oh, wow. Wow, am I glad I called.

    TOM: Well, we’re glad you did, too. Michael, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Jerrod in Nebraska, welcome to The Money Pit. What’s going on and how can we help?

    JERROD: Well, my question is I just put a – I put a new window – pocket replacement window; it has the low-e glass on it. On the outside of that is the storm window. And since I’ve put it up I’m getting moisture on the inside of the storm window; not on the new windows. But I’m trying to figure out how I get that to quit building moisture up.

    TOM: Well, if you’ve used low-e thermal pane glass, you don’t need storm windows. Because the storm window is not as tight as the thermal window; the thermal pane. So in that case, I probably would not have even put up storm windows because what’s happening now is you’re getting moisture that’s obviously working its way through the storm window, which is very understandable.

    LESLIE: Because they’re so – there are so many air filtration units over there. It’s slipping around it and then you’re getting the warmth from the new windows which are really energy efficient and this pocket of air in there is warmer than the cool air on the outside. So now you’re seeing the condensation and now you’re getting a moisture trap.

    TOM: And that’s going to freeze. So that’s what’s going on. You’ve got some basic weather science there working against you. I don’t really think you need the storm window. Why did you put that back on, Jerrod?

    JERROD: Actually I was – it was just a pocket replacement so I took the inside of the old, existing window out …

    TOM: Oh, I see, I see. You slipped the inside out. OK. So you had this storm window on when you had the old wood windows. Well listen, you probably don’t need them anymore. And it’s not hurting you, as long as you don’t mind the frost on there. But you probably don’t need them anymore with the good quality replacement window.

    JERROD: OK. That’s what I needed to know. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: If you’ve got cleaning on your mind, specifically a rust stain, well then you’re very much like one of our e-mailers here at The Money Pit. After the break, we’re going to answer a question about how to get out one of those pesky rust stains so stay with us.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit was brought to you by Ryobi, manufacturer of professional feature power tools and accessories with an affordable price for the do-it-yourselfer. Ryobi power tools. Pro features, affordable price. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. You have a question about your home improvement project? You need some help with that do-it-yourself dilemma? If you’ve wondered things, if you’ve pondered home improvement questions like ‘Why is insulation pink?’ (Leslie chuckles) we could probably answer that, too. I figured that out once, Leslie; why insulation is pink.

    LESLIE: It’s funny because it looks like cotton candy and it makes me want to eat it even though I was like, ‘Ooh, that would be the food that itches like crazy. Don’t do it.’

    TOM: No, it’s pink because it’s a warning not to step on it when you’re working in an attic. That’s why it’s pink. (Leslie chuckles) It’s supposed to give you a clue.

    But if you need some help with your home improvement projects, we will try to give you at least one clue. Call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Or you can jump on our website. You can download our podcast or you can e-mail us a home improvement question.

    LESLIE: And this e-mail is clearly the case of when an incident that seems innocent enough around the house turns into a home improvement project. Listen to this.

    TOM: Like stepping on pink insulation in an attic. (laughing)

    LESLIE: Exactly. That – although that would be an itchy process. Here we go. This one is from John in Gainesville, Florida. ‘I have a marsonite coated concrete pool. My son dropped his Game Boy on the deck, which shattered into tiny pieces; many of which landed in the pool. We were able to get what I thought were all of the pieces out and picked up. Needless to say, the battery was discovered several days later right in the middle of a bad rust stain about the size of a quarter. Is there any easy fix to remove that rust?’

    TOM: TSP. Three letters that will get that rust out. Stands for trisodium phosphate. You buy it in the home center or hardware store. It’s usually in the paint aisle. It’s a good cleaner for like walls and things before you paint. And basically you mix it up into a paste and you put the paste down, John, right on top of that stain. Let it sit for an hour or so and that will do a really good job of lifting that rust right out of there.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it lifts that stain right up. Then go ahead and rinse it off really well and that should do the trick.

    Alright, here is one from Maria in New York. ‘What product can I use to seal the gap between the bath top and the ceramic wall? Also around the ceramic tiles to prevent water filtration to the apartment below?’ Uh-oh, that sounds like a whole ‘nother host of problems.

    TOM: That’s not good. Yeah.

    LESLIE: ‘Is there anything with mold resistance? I’ve used many products in the past and after a few weeks, all gets molds and cracky. What do I do?’

    TOM: Well yes, of course what you’re going to want to use there is a caulk. But when you choose a caulk, first of all make sure it’s a kitchen and bath caulk. Make sure it’s latex so it’s going to expand and contract nicely and not crack.

    LESLIE: So it’ll move with all the pieces that move.

    TOM: And also, make sure it has a mildicide in it. DAP has a product out that’s got an additive called Microban, which I’ve used in my home for many years. And it just doesn’t grow mold. It’s kind of like the Intel inside. It’s like a – it’s an additive. And it works very well. It does its job. It doesn’t crack and it doesn’t grow mold. I know exactly what you’re talking about. Sometimes you put that mold in there – I mean the caulk in there – and it grows mold like in a week.

    LESLIE: Well also you need to make sure that when you pull out all of the old caulk, Maria, you want to make sure, if you’re getting a lot of mold growth, spray a bleach and water solution back there and let it sort of saturate and kill that mold that may be living back there. And then let it dry really, really well before you even think about recaulking.

    TOM: Great idea. And another great tip is to fill the tub with water before you caulk because it sort of weights it down. And then after you apply the caulk, let it dry then let the water out of the tub. The tub will come back up and compress the caulk and this way it won’t pull out the next time you step in it.

    LESLIE: Yeah and Maria, that water trick is probably the exact reason why you’ve been having so much trouble with this caulk in the first place. So give it a go. You’ll be really happy.

    TOM: Well, whether you have an old house or you have a new house there are always design and decorating challenges. Now, with the old homes you’re always faced with the fact that there have been several other versions of decorating over the years; you know, several owners …

    LESLIE: Yeah, and every previous owner has put their personal mark.

    TOM: Everyone that’s got like their own idea, you end up with something that’s like a split-level log cabin post-modern Victorian ranch.

    LESLIE: Well, in fairness to them, it worked for them. (Tom chuckles) But maybe not for you.

    TOM: But even if it’s a new home, there are also design challenges. So next week on The Money Pit, we’re going to talk about new homes and how you can plan at the construction stage to make sure your house works for you today, tomorrow and into the future.

    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.

    (promo/theme song)


    (Copyright 2007 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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