Home Improvement Tips & Advice
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.)
BEGIN HOUR 2 TEXT:
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: It’s a great hour. It’s a great idea. It’s time to talk home improvement. What are you working on? Look around your house. We know there’s something you want to get done today. We can help. The number, 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. And now is the perfect time to think about ways that you can save money in your house.
First up this hour, we’re going to tell you how to do that when it comes to heating your water; especially if you have an electric water heater. It’s the most expensive way to heat water for your home. But there’s actually an easy way to cut down on those costs. We’re going to tell you how to make that electric water heater much smarter in just a bit.
LESLIE: And also this hour, you know, when you’re doing a home improvement project in your house, big or small, you take into account all of those dangers to your family. But do you think about your pets? Hey, pet owners out there, make sure that you keep fluffy or Fido safe during any DIY project because paints, solvents, glue, even nails or screws can pose a huge potential problem for your pets. We’ve got a list of the most dangerous tools and the supplies, plus a solution to make sure that your animals are protected during your next DIY adventure.
TOM: Plus, we’re going to be talking green building trends today with a builder who specializes in them. Find out how to make sure the materials that you are getting for your green home are truly green, truly safe, truly environmentally friendly. Plus, some tips on greening up your current home to save money and resources.
LESLIE: Yeah, and like we like to give out tips here at The Money Pit, we also like to give away prizes. And this hour we’ve got a great one, perfect for this time of year. Upcoming for the fall it’s the Homelite MightyLite blower vac. It is worth $99 and it is lightweight and powerful. It’s going to make all of those fall chores fun and easy.
TOM: If you’d like to win it call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You must have a home improvement question and be willing to come on the air and ask us. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Leslie, who’s first?
LESLIE: Ed in Michigan, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you?
ED: Well, I installed a two-person Jacuzzi-type tub in one of the bathrooms in the house.
LESLIE: That sounds pretty nice.
ED: Aw, it’s fantastic. I currently have a 40-gallon gas water heater that just doesn’t supply the demand for hot water when I fill up this tub. Would it better for me to get an inline water heater? Or with some creative piping and valving, I should be able to put a second 40-gallon water heater in series with my current water heater.
TOM: When you say an inline water heater are you talking about a tankless water heater?
ED: That’s correct.
TOM: OK. Well, you definitely need more capacity. That’s the first thing. If you were to put a second water heater in, and a tankless water heater in particular, you would also have the ability to zone your hot water. Are you – do you ever find yourself, Ed, waiting, you know, quite a while for the water to get hot; say, in the master bath?
ED: Not really, no.
TOM: OK. So then you don’t really have a distribution issue so the only question here is what kind of a larger water heater do you want to put in. I would recommend against putting in two water heaters because two water heaters are not going to be nearly as efficient as one. What I would suggest you do is replace the 40-gallon with either a tankless, which will be certainly the most efficient way to go, or with a 50 or more gallon gas water heater with a quick recovery. Ed, whatever you do I would use the highest efficiency available.
ED: Well that’s my point, though. I don’t use this Jacuzzi-type tub very often; maybe once a week.
TOM: But if you put a second water heater in it’s going to stay hot all the time.
ED: Not if I turn it down.
TOM: No, no, no, no. No, it’s still going to waste a lot of energy. I would rather – if you’re concerned about energy efficiency I would suggest you get an on-demand tankless water heater. It’s only going to heat the amount of water you need when you need it. That would be the most efficient way to go.
ED: What kind of flow rate would you recommend?
TOM: Well, you’re going to get a flow rate that’s going to be based on the number of appliances in the house that you – number of fixtures in the house. That will be specified by the manufacturer. But you can buy one that’s appropriately sized for the number of bathrooms and the type of fixtures.
The key here, when you install the tankless by the way, is to make sure it’s piped correctly with the gas lines. Because even – those tankless water heaters use less gas but they use a larger volume of it just for a shorter period of time. So you have to make sure you have the right size gas lines in there and then it’ll work very well.
ED: Thank you very much.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
Yeah, two water heaters are never as efficient as one. And you know, we all know you’re not going to be involved in turning one up and down and up and down. You’re just going to leave it up …
LESLIE: Well, you’re not going to go with that hassle.
LESLIE: What if you went with a larger water heater but put a timer on it?
TOM: You can’t have a timer on a gas water heater.
LESLIE: You can not?
TOM: You can only have a timer on an electric water heater. But it’s a good thought.
TOM: However, you could have it – you know, if you had an on-demand water heater, a tankless …
TOM: … you know, you can program that to bring the water up to a higher temperature just when you hop in the tub and then it’s goes down again.
LESLIE: So it itself acts as a timer.
TOM: Well, not as a timer but you have more control. You have a better control over it than you’d ever have with a regular standard water heater. That’s why I call the standard water heaters dumb water heaters. (Leslie chuckles) Because they heat the water whether you need it or not.
LESLIE: Samuel in Delaware can find The Money Pit on WDEL and you’ve got a question about heating up your basement. Tell us what’s going on.
SAMUEL: Well, since there’s no heat source down there I was thinking of getting a pellet stove that would take care of the heat in the basement; unless there’s a better idea.
TOM: How much time are you going to be spending in the basement, Sam?
SAMUEL: Well, I plan to pretty much live down there since all our other rooms are taken up by the rest of the family. (Leslie chuckles)
TOM: (chuckling) OK. Well, in that case then perhaps that’s a fine idea. Pellet stoves burn very, very clean and very efficiently and as long as they’re vented properly I think that they’re very safe.
Typically, in a basement, your options are to extend the existing heating system. If that’s not possible you need to add supplemental heat and the easiest supplemental heat to add to a basement is electric resistance heat. Now normally we would not recommend electric resistance heat because it’s so expensive. But in a basement you don’t have to use that heat very much. You don’t have to use it, you know, but maybe two or three months of the year at the most and you probably don’t even have to use it that much within that period of time because the basement does remain somewhat warm just by virtue of the fact that it’s insulated by the earth around it. However, if you’re going to be in there as a living space; you’re going to be spending a lot of time in there; it’s not a recreational space that’s partially used; it’s really a space you’re going to use an awful lot, then definitely a pellet stove is a fine idea.
We hope that helps you out.
SAMUEL: Yeah, it does. Thanks.
TOM: You’re very welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: We’ve got more great home improvement advice coming up but first we want you to know that we here at The Money Pit are here to serve you. We will answer all your questions whether about home repair, home improvement, home design. Maybe you just need an idea for that bathroom project. Well that’s what we’re here for so give us a call anytime at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Speaking of bathroom projects, you want to know how to save half the cost of running your electric water heater? We’ll give you the answer, next.
ANNOUNCER: AARP is proud to sponsor The Money Pit. Visit www.AARP.org/HomeDesign to learn more about making your home more functional and comfortable for years to come.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.
LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.
And the number here at team Money Pit is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If we talk to you today you are going to be automatically entered into our random prize drawing for a Homelite MightyLite blower vac. It’s worth 99 bucks. It’s a 3-in-1 blower. It’s a vacuum and a mulcher. It is perfect for all of your fall yard cleanup. So call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT for your chance to win.
OK, let’s now talk about how to reduce some of those heating costs that you are going to be paying through the roof for this winter; especially if it involves an electric water heater. You know, that is the most expensive way to produce hot water. But there are a couple of things that you can do to save some money.
First off, you need to put a timer on the water heater because a water heater does not have to run 24/7. Typically, you can set the timer to come on and let the water heater run for a couple of hours in the morning while everyone’s getting up and taking those morning showers, go off during the day and come on again for another few hours in the evening. Now, the water will still stay pretty hot during the day but since the coils are not on you won’t be paying to heat it. You’ll just be enjoying that warm water that’s stored in the tank. Another thing that you can do is a put a water heater blanket on it. A fiberglass blanket costs you about 10 bucks. And if you do these two things, the timer and the blanket, you’re going to save about half the cost of heating your hot water.
If you want more great energy-saving tips they are on our website at MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: So, what you’re saying, Tom, is that I could take a twice-as-long shower for the same amount of money?
TOM: Spoken like a woman. (Leslie laughs) Absolutely. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: James in Rhode Island finds The Money Pit on WPRO and you’ve got a roofing question. What can we do for you?
JAMES: My question is I’ve got a five-year-old house – brand new, obviously – and recently I had some roof shingles blow off with a mild windstorm that we had. It happened twice. And I’m thinking is that – it’s not normal for that to happen on such a young house. So I figured that either improper installation or a defect in the materials and I was wondering if there are any other possible causes that could create roof shingles flying off.
LESLIE: Well, it could be two things. It could be that they weren’t attached properly or they weren’t using the right adhesive to sort of help them attach or that they’re not the right shingles for your location maybe.
TOM: Yeah, you know, there’s a nailing guide on the bag of every shingles or on the package of every shingles. And generally it’s four nails per shingle. So the first thing I would check to make sure they’re nailed correctly. The second thing is, James, that there are different kinds of roofing shingles and some are meant for high wind areas. So if you happen to have an area where you’re picking up a lot of wind, you might have been better off using a different shingles. There are actually shingles out there that can stand up to 100-mile-an-hour wind storms.
JAMES: Well, I’m in an area where all the homes are new and a couple of homes also lost some shingles but not a whole lot of them, so – but the same shingles were supposedly used on all the homes in the whole neighborhood.
TOM: Well, and they probably were. And they probably were made very similarly. There’s another possibility and that is that sometimes when a roof is shingled in cooler weather the shingles don’t really have a chance to set because they don’t get enough sun right off. And so the glue …
LESLIE: Yeah, because the sun sort of helps adhere them to each other.
TOM: Yeah, because there’s like a glue strip between each layer of shingles and it takes a lot of heat of the sun to actually make that stick. So sometimes I’ve seen roof shingles blow off a lot when the roof was put on in the cooler weather.
JAMES: Is there a strip you’re supposed to peel off of that?
JAMES: Oh, OK. Because I saw the glue strip on it and there’s like a film over it. I thought maybe they should pull that away and then put it onto the roof and nail it.
TOM: There’d be no reason to do that. Yeah.
So, James, what I would suggest is that for right now you simply keep replacing those shingles and when you do you want to put a little tab of glue, little tab of roof cement, under each edge of a shingle before you put it down.
JAMES: Thank you.
TOM: You’re very welcome.
LESLIE: Enjoy your new house.
JAMES: Thank you.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
Interesting the way people consider their homes – when somebody considers his house new. Is it new ..
LESLIE: Well, you consider your house new if it’s new to you.
TOM: That’s right. Is it new if it’s like brand new? Is it new if it’s five years old?
LESLIE: I think it’s new if it’s new to you.
TOM: That’s a good point.
LESLIE: Regardless if it’s 100 years old or brand, spanking new.
TOM: Right but there’s an expectation that as a newer house you’re not going to have problems. That’s like a new car …
LESLIE: Yeah, but you might have more problems with a newer house …
LESLIE: … than you would with something that’s already built.
TOM: I think a five-year-old house is a great age for a house. Because most of the …
LESLIE: Because it’s already …
TOM: Most of the kinks have been worked out.
LESLIE: It’s already lost some of its teeth so you’re OK.
TOM: If you buy James’s house you’ll already have a few new roof shingles, too. (chuckling)
LESLIE: Mandy in Alabama finds The Money Pit on WRJM and you’ve got a shower question. What’s going on?
MANDY: Yes, my husband and I remodeled a bathroom ourselves and we installed a new shower and fixtures and everything. And when you turn the bathtub portion on the shower part drips; even, you know, without turning it on for just the shower. If you get it beyond a certain pressure point – you know, like if you turn it on strong? –
MANDY: – it drips and it’s very annoying. When you’re trying to bathe your children you get a shower at the same time.
LESLIE: Sounds like a valve problem.
TOM: Yeah, it sounds like the diverter has gone bad on that shower. It’s basically a valve that controls the flow between the faucet and the shower head. And that valve is leaking on you and you need a new diverter.
MANDY: OK, because this is a brand new set. You know, we bought it ourselves and installed it (INAUDIBLE) …
TOM: Well then I would go out – I would go out and take it back to the store if it’s not working.
MANDY: The diverter?
TOM: It sounds to me like it’s not – the diverter’s not working properly. It definitely should not be allowing water to pass up to the shower head.
MANDY: OK. So take the diverter. And my husband wanted to ask – wanted me to ask another very quick plumbing question.
TOM: OK, sure.
MANDY: Our two year old, at some point, stuffed something down the toilet. (Tom and Leslie laugh) Same bathroom. And he – we’ve – you know, every time we use the bathroom in any capacity we have to plunge it. And it’s very slow to drain. And he was wanting to know does this sound like something that is like a do-it-yourself thing or should we try to get somebody professional in to – we’re probably going to have to take the completely off?
TOM: Well Mandy, you know, being a home improvement expert I feel your pain because one time I had a toilet back up in my house before – I think it was before my daughter’s christening. So the next morning before we go to church I go outside because I knew – because I am a home improvement expert – that the cause was the clogged waste pipe that was going out to the street. I had a big willow tree and I was absolutely convinced that that was the problem with the toilet. So I dug a big hole in the yard before church that morning and I found the pipe and I broke the pipe open and I snaked it one way and I snaked it the other way. And that didn’t do it. So finally, out of total frustration, with hours to go before the service and the big party when everybody’s coming over, I finally figured I had to access this thing from the toilet itself. So I pulled the toilet out and I snaked it down from the top. And guess what? I couldn’t find anything. But as I went to put the toilet back on I noticed something blue in the bottom of the toilet.
LESLIE: Oh, God. What was it?
TOM: It was a toy phone. (Mandy and Leslie laugh) It was a toy phone that my son had stuffed into the toilet.
TOM: And so, that’s how much I know. (Mandy and Tom laugh) If your question is is it …
MANDY: Well, he was going to just like take the toilet off and …
TOM: Yeah, take the toilet off …
MANDY: … and see, you know, at that point.
TOM: Turn the valve off. Take the toilet off. Turn it on its side. Carefully drain the water out and, you know, look from the bottom, look from the top. If it’s obstructed you’re going to find it.
LESLIE: Oh, gosh.
TOM: It’s not that hard to do. And then put a new wax – put a new wax seal on.
MANDY: That’s the whole reason we remodeled and we’ve got two bathrooms now. But we’re basically down to using just one when we have company. (Tom chuckles) It’s really embarrassing. (Leslie chuckles)
OK. Well, great. So check the diverter on the shower and then just look for objects, which we know are in there, (Leslie chuckles) and pull it.
TOM: That’s right. Because remember, there’s nothing supposed to be blue inside of a toilet, OK?
MANDY: (chuckling) OK. OK, thank you so much.
TOM: (overlapping voices) Alright, thanks very much. You’re welcome, Mandy. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: Jody in Texas is building a new home and looking for some advice. What can we do for you?
JODY: I’m planning on building a concrete home. I live in hurricane territory in Corpus Christi, Texas. And I wanted to build a home either out of concrete block or just concrete walls. But I had no idea if you could do it and where to start.
TOM: Oh, I have a third option for you, Jody, which is even better. Have you heard of insulated concrete forms?
JODY: I have, yes.
TOM: That is really an awesome technology. What these are are they look like foam blocks; like large, foam blocks. Think of huge LEGO blocks.
TOM: That’s what they look like. Except, Leslie, they’re hollow …
LESLIE: They’re hollow on the inside.
TOM: Yeah, they’re hollow on the inside. So what you do is you stack them up to form the wall and then inside of them you snap in rebar; the reinforcing steel bar. And then once it’s all in place and it’s exactly where you want it to be and it’s all braced in place, then the concrete truck comes in and it pours a fairly loose mixture of concrete in between the insulated foam blocks. So what happens is that hardens and then you get this like super-insulated, super-tough wall. So I really like insulated concrete forms. And I’ll tell you, if I was building a house today, Jody, that is definitely the technology that I would take advantage of.
JODY: How does the price differ from a wood house? Is it more expensive?
TOM: No, it’s about the same price as a wood house to do this. But the advantages are you get the storm resistance. You can’t have – the walls are absolutely rock solid. They’re also quieter homes.
LESLIE: It’s good insulation value as well.
TOM: They’re super-insulated. In fact, if you build an insulated concrete form home you can downsize the heating and cooling system by a third, so you’ll actually realize some savings on the flip side there as well.
You know, a good website for those, Jody, is ConcreteHomes.com. It’s a website that’s managed by the Portland Cement Association. It’s got great ideas, lots of great photos and you get more information on it. And there’s a whole bunch of manufacturers out there that make ICF blocks today.
JODY: OK. Do they have any kind of plans; like house plans (INAUDIBLE)?
TOM: Well, I will say this. I don’t think that building a concrete form house is a do-it-yourself project. (Leslie chuckles)
TOM: It’s a little – you have to work with the stuff.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) But you can incorporate it into any style of home being built.
TOM: Well, you certainly can.
LESLIE: It just replaces the wood framing.
TOM: Yeah, you certainly can incorporate it. But I would hire a crew that’s used to doing this. I would not do it myself. If I was doing it, as much as I know, I’d hire people that work with these blocks everyday to get the walls up in place. I might take it over from there. But you know, it’s just like anything. If you work with it everyday you get pretty good at it.
JODY: Right. And what about the roofing? Would you use like wood to do the top roof or steel or …
TOM: Correct. The roofing would be standard and, as long as it was tied down to the walls properly, then it’s going to be secure. And if you’re in a hurricane area you’re probably not going to want to do a gable roof. You’re going to want to do a hip roof because they have the best hurricane resistance. It doesn’t have that flat end wall for a hurricane to sort of grab onto.
JODY: What’s it called?
TOM: A hip roof. Where all sides slope up like a triangle.
TOM: Or like a pyramid, I should say.
JODY: A hip roof.
TOM: A hip roof. Yep. H-i-p.
TOM: OK? Think pyramid.
JODY: OK, thank you.
TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.
Up next, would you like to go green?
TOM: You know, build a home that’s green; build a home that’s environmentally friendly? It’s a great way to save money and resources. But you have to make sure that the products and materials you want for your home really are built in an environmentally responsible way and truly are green. We’re going to tell you what to check for, next.
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 with your home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. This is the show with the tools, the tips and the techniques to help you get the job done.
Hey, the other thing that we talk about is trends on this program. And Leslie, we are hearing an awful lot this year, I’d say more than ever, about green building trends. They seem to be incredibly hot right now.
LESLIE: Yeah, thank goodness for that. That’s why we’ve got a great guest for you this hour. We have Ron Jones who’s the editorial director with Green Builder Media.
RON: Hi, everyone. Thank you for having me.
TOM: And Ron, you’ve been building green now for like 30 years. So it sounds like it’s …
LESLIE: Before it was even cool.
RON: Yes, it’s been a long time and it’s been a fun time.
TOM: Well, let’s set the stage for this. You know, speaking of 30 years ago, it seems to me that ever since the energy crisis of the 70s people have been pretty much obsessed with ways to make homes that are more energy efficient; more environmentally friendly. We now call that green building. But why has it taken so long to – for the industry to sort of come together on this?
RON: Well, I think part of it has been that we’ve seen energy prices fluctuate over the years. And just like our driving habits I think that our household habits have not reflected, you know, the best practices sometimes. And so we tend to get a little bit careless with energy resources. But I think we’re seeing more concentration in areas like the water resource and on indoor environment quality. So there’s a lot more touch points now than there were maybe 30 or 40 years ago.
LESLIE: Now if you’re dealing with building a home from scratch or even doing a remodel, what are some of these green trends that we’re seeing in new builds and in new constructions?
RON: Well, I think that they go hand in hand really. It’s interesting. When we talk about the things that people concentrate on most we talked about energy, of course. And what we see is that people are putting a lot of emphasis on what’s called the building envelope; that is the shell: the structure of the building, the insulation, the windows, the glazing package as we refer to it, all of the things that have an effect on how well that building performs in terms of energy for heating and cooling. But we also see a large emphasis now on the content of materials in the indoor environment because people spend so much of their waking lives and, in fact, the 24-hour clock, indoors …
RON: … and we see a lot of concerns nowadays about the proliferation of, particularly, ailments in children; respiratory ailments such as asthma and so forth. And many of those are attributed to some of the chemicals and things that we find in traditional products.
TOM: We’re talking to Ron Jones. He is with Green Builder Media; an expert, really, in the green building process.
So Ron, if we’re looking at these products – and you say there’s more and more of them coming about – how do we know, if a product claims to be truly green, that it’s truly safe for us and for the environment? Is there any type of a certification process that would tell a consumer that a product really was truly safe?
RON: Well, I think that we see more and more good evidence related to certain certifications. I’ll give you an example. There is a certification called GREENGUARD that specifically deals with indoor air quality. And so, products that you might have in your home, whether they are components of cabinetry or in walls or wood finishes or in flooring, those kinds of things, if they have a GREENGUARD seal I would say that that’s a pretty good assurance that they’ve been well tested.
LESLIE: And GREENGUARD, you know, is very thorough; very efficient. You know, it’s not one of those things where, OK, now you’re GREENGUARD certified and you’re done. They retest annually, correct?
RON: That’s right. And I think that it’s important – you know, we sort of have an initiative going ourselves at Green Builder. We are looking at certification for building products and developing some criteria in the testing for that exact reason. Because there’s just so many different components that go into the building process and the built environment in total and we need a way to be always vigilant and on top of the improvements and making sure that the indoor environment is healthier as well as the durability of buildings and so forth.
TOM: We’re talking to Ron Jones. He is the editorial director for Green Builder Media.
You know, Ron, when I think about green building I think that probably one of the earliest forms of green building was simply the solar house. Why is it that we are not doing a better job, in this country, of using solar energy? It seems so obvious. Yet active solar systems are so expensive and I don’t see that many builders really constructing homes that are passive solar designed.
RON: You know, it’s interesting. So much of it relates to the actual land planning process and the way we lay out our streets on an east-west/north-south grid. We don’t necessarily take care of the proper orientations for solar gain and those kinds of issues. And so, really, it begins when you start planning a development or a neighborhood or when you think about a community in whole. But also, you can do things within even a remodel of an existing structure to give yourself the appropriate sort of access to the sun when you want it and shading when you need it and think about the landscaping and how that comes in to play; natural ventilation that’s relative to what your wind patterns are. Those kinds of things can really make an improvement, not only in your comfort but in the amount of energy it takes to condition the space that you live in.
TOM: Ron Jones, the editorial director for Green Builder Media. Thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.
If you want more information on green building you can go to Green Builder Media’s website at TheGreenBuilder.com.
LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. And fall is a busy time of year for home improvement projects. Tom loves to tell us it’s the perfect time of year. The weather is just right. But if you’ve got pets you really want to make sure that you keep them safe during your next DIY adventure. And it can be very easy for Fido and Fluffy to get into all sorts of trouble.
Up next, we’re going to share some of the most dangerous tools and supplies for your pets and tell you how to keep them safe.
ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is 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: Making good homes better, 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. And one caller to the show today is going to win a Homelite MightyLite blower. It’s a blower vac worth 99 bucks. It’s got an easy start Rotochoke design. Uses 20 percent less gas than its predecessors. And what I like about this is that the mulcher actually compacts 12 bags of leaves into one bag of mulch. That’s all. Squeezes it right down. If you want to win it you’ve got to call us right now. We’re going to give one to one caller to today’s program at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We will draw a name out of that Money Pit hardhat at the end of the show. And you must be willing to come on the air and ask your home improvement question to qualify.
LESLIE: Alright. And maybe your question is about the fall: what kinds of things you want to work on in the house; why is this time of year the best time to do home improvement projects. Well, maybe some of those projects that you’ve been putting off are inside of your house. And when you’re ready to start a new project you really want to make sure that you keep your pets safely out of that DIY danger zone. It might even be worth it to board your cat or your dog or even have it stay with a friend. Because here is why: paints and some solvents can cause anything from minor stomach upset if they ingest it – which they might because you can’t watch them all the time – to chemical burns. And if your dog or cat mistakes a nail or screws for a Scooby Snack, it could cause some serious damage to the intestine or even form a blockage. Even fresh cement can irritate or even be corrosive to the skin of some animals. You’ve got to think about your fluffy friends here.
TOM: Just in case, it’s a good idea to keep phone numbers for your vet and an emergency vet and the ASPCA poison control center handy. Be ready to tell the vet or the hotline what type of dog or cat you have and how much it weighs and what type of poison you believe the pet may have ingested and those folks will help you out.
888-666-3974 is the way we can help you out with your home improvement questions.
Leslie, who’s next?
LESLIE: Nancy in North Carolina listens to The Money Pit on WSTP. And you’ve got a foundation question. What can we do for you?
NANCY: Yes, I have a 75-year-old brick home with a full basement. And the problem is that when we have a saturating rain the water comes through the wall in one part of the basement. And I had come up with a solution but it then occurred to me that maybe I should check and make sure if there’s any reason I shouldn’t do it.
LESLIE: What was your solution?
NANCY: Well, the basement is partially exposed. The windows are actually above ground. And I thought I might get some topsoil or some kind of soil brought in and bank it away from the house. And I have a problem with ivy also and I was thinking that if I banked the soil away from the house to help facilitate drainage away from the house but then put pavers – cement stepping stones, really, only they’re a foot-and-a-half long by eight inches wide –
NANCY: – and line the entire foundation with that on the angle, that would help me perhaps be able to keep the ivy under control as well as provide a little bit of a runoff area and maybe keep that area right next to the house drier. Does it – does that make any sense at all? Or is there any reason that I should not do it?
TOM: It actually makes a lot of sense, Nancy. You are definitely on the right track. Generally, wet basements are caused by poor grading. So the slope of the soil around the house is too flat. But even more commonly it’s caused by problems with the gutter system; either it being clogged, the downspouts not being extended far enough away from the basement or perhaps the gutter system even being undersized. So that was to be the first thing that I would check is that your gutter system is properly designed and installed and that water is discharging four to six feet away from the foundation. Generally, at the corner areas most gutters just turn out six inches or a foot. Maybe there’s a splash block. Then the water ponds there and it works its way back in.
Now, as for that soil; a couple of things. First of all, sloping is the right idea. Topsoil is not the right material, though. Topsoil is very organic so it holds a lot of water against the foundation. Once you pull that ivy out you want to add clean fill dirt to build up the pitch. And that is sort of – it looks like pitcher’s mound soil almost. It’s sort of a lighter brown color and it packs really well. And once you get the pitch established then you can put a little bit of top soil on top, if you wanted to grow stuff. Now, in your case, you don’t want so then maybe what you could do is put some mulch or some stone or pavers or whatever you want to control erosion. But don’t use topsoil. Use clean fill dirt and before you do any of that check the gutters first.
NANCY: OK. Well, I do have new gutters so I’m assuming that they put in the right kind. However, you hit the nail on the head when you talked about if the drainage area on the ground does not extend far enough away from the house.
TOM: Yeah, it’s never extended enough. You’ve got to run the downspouts out a couple of feet, then maybe put a two or three-foot splash block out to start. And if you have a severe problem what you want to do is pipe that downspout water underground out to the street if you can. OK?
NANCY: Well, I thank you very much. I really appreciate that and I’m glad to know that there’s no reason not to do it. (chuckling)
TOM: You’re on the right track, Nancy. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: We have smart callers here at The Money Pit. I like it.
TOM: That’s right, we do. So if your question is a smart one, or even if it’s not, we don’t judge. Call us right now. 888-666-3974.
LESLIE: Dennis in New Hampshire’s got a question about a septic system. How can we help?
DENNIS: Hi, I’ve got a question about it. What I have is an older house with just a tank and no leach field. And the septic seems to be draining off into a wet area off in the corner of the yard and draining into a brook area.
DENNIS: Are there any programs out there to help me pay to put a regular leach field in?
TOM: Geez, I don’t know if there’s any programs but that’s definitely a very unsanitary situation. And you’re definitely going to have to get that fixed because you basically are polluting the waterway by doing it that way. You know, with old houses you never know. Now, are you sure, in this case, that part of the system that’s doing that is for the black water, as it’s known; the actual sewage waste? Or is it possible that you have two waste pipes coming out of the house? Because what you’re describing sounds more like a gray water discharge; where you have water that comes, say, from your laundry area or your sump pump where it’s not actually contaminated with sewage. In that case it’s not that unusual to see it drain over ground.
DENNIS: We do have two separate tanks but this – we had it inspected and they couldn’t find a leach field and showed us the area where it was coming out.
TOM: Did they do a dye test where they flushed dye through the system and you saw it turn up in the brook?
TOM: Well, that would be the next thing to do. And if it’s definitely connected that way it won’t take very long for you to see that. A septic dye can be introduced at, say, the toilet inside the house. And you flush it and you run some water for maybe a half hour, say, through the tub or sink. And that water is going to turn green and you’ll be able to go outside within 20 minutes and see green water in the brook if it’s really doing that.
TOM: Now, once you identify the problem then you’re going to have to get it fixed. If it is, in fact, leaching you’re going to have to put a septic field in. You’re going to have to have that engineered for your particular township. I’m afraid that I don’t know of any programs that could help you pay for that but I can definitely tell you it has to get done.
DENNIS: OK, thank you very much.
TOM: Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.
LESLIE: More great home improvement advice coming up after the break. But first, maybe you’ve had a bad storm blow through your neck of the woods. We’re going to tell you how to check your home for damage from the top down, so stay with us.
TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The website is MoneyPit.com.
LESLIE: Yeah, and on MoneyPit.com you can go ahead and sign up to download the Money Pit podcast. It can be your daily dose of Tom and Leslie to help cure all of your home improvement headaches on the go, wherever you are. And it is the number one home improvement show on iTunes. I love it. We’re so high-tech. Just make sure you visit MoneyPit.com and go to Listen to get in on what everyone is downloading.
TOM: And while you’re there click on Ask Tom and Leslie and shoot us an e-mail question. We have one here from Archie in Austin, Texas.
LESLIE: Alright, and Archie writes: ‘We had a bad storm blow through a couple of weeks ago and many of my neighbors had roof damage. From the safety of the ground I don’t see anything out of the ordinary. But I want to be sure.’
TOM: Well, there are a number of ways to inspect your roof for possible leaks and trouble signs from the ground. Probably the best thing for you to do, Archie, is to grab a pair of binoculars and these are the things that you want to look at. First of all, scan the roof for any missing or broken shingles. They can be sometimes tricky to spot, especially if you have a black or dark-colored roof. Secondly, take a look at all of the places where there’s penetrations that go through the roof; like a vent pipe or a chimney. Those are the areas – or even where different sections of the roof intersect or where the roof intersects.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm, like if you’ve got a dormer.
TOM: Yeah, or where the roof intersects with an upper wall like that. Definitely check those areas out as well.
LESLIE: Yeah, and you want to make sure that you remember that any moisture damage to your roof is most likely going to be the result of inadequate weather protection from the rain and the snow and the ice. And should you find yourself needing to replace your roof or even make some repairs, be sure to tell your contractor to use upgrades from traditional weather barriers to more premium ones like Grace’s Tri-Flex Xtreme Synthetic Water-shedding Roofing Underlayment. Because these are synthetic materials, they’re flexible; they go on easier; they’re much more durable; and they sort of self-heal when you put any protrusions through them. So they’re really going to do a good job of sealing up everything and making sure that when you put a nail through water isn’t going to seep in around it.
TOM: That’s at GraceAtHome.com, right? That’s their website.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Yeah, that’s a great website. They’ve got a lot of great home improvement advice for your roof.
TOM: Another thing to check is the attic area because if the roof looks good from the outside you also want to scan the inside. And it’s in many of the same areas, especially around the chimney and the vent pipes where you’ll see these leaks. So I think you can do a reasonably good inspection on this from the ground without getting hurt, Archie, and if you see any trouble get on it right away because if you let that water in the rot will follow.
LESLIE: Alright, we’ve got one more here from Nash in San Diego who writes: ‘We have a crack in our foundation and are thinking of putting our house on the market soon. It’s fairly contained and runs diagonally for about five feet. What’s the best way to address it?’
TOM: Well, even though it’s kind of disturbing to have a cracked foundation, it’s actually very, very common. We see it all the time or I should say I saw it all the time …
TOM: … when I was a home inspector for all those years. If the crack seems to have been there for a long time; it’s not something that’s like new news, then I wouldn’t worry too much about it. What I would do is I would seal it up with a silicone or a urethane caulk. I would also take a look at the drainage conditions around that corner of the home because, typically, what happens is if you have bad drainage right near those cracks, what’ll happen is the water will get under the footing. And you know, you think about it, when you are walking across the soil and it’s dry you kind of walk on top of it. But what happens when it gets wet? Well, you sink in it. And that’s the same thing that happens to a foundation. It moves more in wet soil than dry soil. So chances are if you have some cracks the reason you have them is because you have a drainage issue. So make sure that you’re sloping soil away; that you have gutters that are clean and free-flowing to keep everything away from the house.
This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. We are just about out of time. But coming up next week we’re going to talk decorating. Well, not just any type of home decorating. We’re going to tackle one of the most difficult home decorating challenges out there which is, ‘How do I get rid of that awful wallpaper?’
LESLIE: (chuckling) But you know what? Wallpaper is beautiful so maybe you want to take it down to put up a new one or maybe you’re just not liking what was there. But don’t be so against wallpaper because it really can be a nice way to update the look of your home.
TOM: We’ll have the insider stress-free secrets to taking down and putting up some really nice wallpaper and talk about why this trend is making such a huge comeback.
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.
END HOUR 2 TEXT
(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.)