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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: Don’t look now but your home improvement projects just got easier. We are here to help you get the job done. We’re on the job. We are part of the team. Just call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. It’s a great hour. It’s a great idea. It’s a great time to fix up your house.

    Coming up this hour we’re going to talk about lighting. You know, the right lighting can make a big difference in your home. It can take a room from drab to fab. But if you’re not sure where to start, there are certain situations where you might want to consider calling in a lighting pro. They can really be worth their weight in gold. We’re going to tell you all about lighting designers in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead this hour, here is a question you should be asking yourself especially this time of year. Is your roof steady enough to support the weight of a jolly old soul and a flying reindeer. Ho-ho-ho-ho-ho. (Tom chuckles) Well, what about leaks? You should be concerned about those also. Coming up, we are going to tell you a few telltale signs that you do not want to miss.

    TOM: Plus, if all you want for Christmas or Hanukkah, Kwanza or insert your local holiday here is a new kitchen, you know that hundreds, if not thousands, of cabinet choices await you. When you’re trying to make that decision it is difficult. They range in price from hundreds to thousands. We’re going to help you sort out the differences in kitchen cabinets in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And we’ve got a great prize coming up a little bit this hour which is not going to cost you a darn thing because you’re going to win it for free if you ask your question on the air and we draw your name out of the Money Pit hardhat. This is a perfect gift. It is the Christmas Tree Safety Package. It’s from our friends over at LightKeeper Pro and it includes an easy way to fix that one bulb in a string of lights that’s making the entire string not work. You can tell I have dealt with this frustration before. (Tom chuckles) It is worth 70 bucks. Yours for free. Be in it to win it. So give us a call.

    TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Let’s get right to the phones. Who’s first?

    LESLIE: Katherine in Indiana is dealing with an issue in the toilet tank. What do you have? Rust stains? What’s going on in there?

    KATHERINE: Oh well, the inside of the tank gets a lot of rust in it. I have water with some rust problems and no water softener. And I can clean the bowl with a toilet brush but I’m thinking if I could get all of that rusty scum out of the tank maybe the toilet bowl wouldn’t get dirty so fast. Now, I have tried using a brush on the inside of the tank. What that does is just settle all those rust particles …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    KATHERINE: … down to the bottom …

    TOM: (chuckling) OK.

    KATHERINE: … and then sucks them into the toilet again. (Leslie chuckles)

    TOM: Have you tried using CLR – Calcium-Lime-Rust?

    KATHERINE: No, I have not.

    TOM: OK. That’s a good product for cleaning up toilet tanks and toilet bowls. CLR. It’s been around for a zillion years and it really works pretty well. I’d give that a shot. Not so unusual to find those types of rust deposits; usually from the iron that’s in the water that builds up over a number of years. And that product’s specifically designed to try to get it out.

    KATHERINE: Now, that’s not going to interfere with the plastic mechanism that’s inside there, is it?

    TOM: No. No, no, no. Not at all. What you have to watch out for when it comes to the mechanisms in the toilets …

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: … are bleach-based cleansers. Bleach is very corrosive. But if you use a product like CLR you’ll be perfectly fine.

    KATHERINE: Oh, I hope so. Well, thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Ted in Missouri is dealing with a roofing problem. What’s happening? Are you getting a new one? Is something wrong with the one you’ve got and you want to fix it?

    TED: Yes. Well, yes and no. My wife told me I need to pay attention to the roof and I went on the roof.

    LESLIE: Good.

    TED: Noticed a lot of my granules are missing and some of the shingles are kind of warping upward and I’m kind of curious when is a good time to replace my roof?

    TOM: How old is it now, Ted?

    TED: It is about – I would say about 11 years old.

    TOM: Wow. So it’s only 11 years old and it’s already starting to lose granules and curl?

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TED: Yes.

    LESLIE: I mean that’s generally – this is a cement asphalt shingle, correct?

    TED: Yes.

    LESLIE: So they should be lasting close to 20 years. Do you …

    TOM: Yeah, and the number one reason that shingles don’t last – that asphalt shingles don’t last 20 years – is a problem with ventilation. I suspect, Ted, that you may be overcooking that roof. Now, how old is your house? Is it 11 years old or is it older?

    TED: No, it’s 22 years old.

    TOM: Wow, so the first roof must have only lasted 11 years.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Only lasted 11 years.

    TOM: OK, so now we’re getting to the bottom of this.

    LESLIE: But now, do you know, Ted, is the new roof – or well, the 11-year-old one that’s on there now – was it put on top of the old roof?

    TED: Yes, it was.

    TOM: Yeah. Alright, listen Ted. Here’s what we need to do. First of all, there’s definitely a ventilation problem in that roof space and that’s why it’s overheating. So here’s what we’re going to recommend. What design roof is this house? Is it a ranch, colonial? What is it?

    TED: It’s just a basic – the person who put it up, he built it on his spare time and …

    TOM: OK, but is it a two-story colonial or is it a ranch? What does it look like?

    TED: It looks like a colonial.

    TOM: OK. So here’s what you need to do.

    You’re going to have a long ridge down – across the top. And do you have a single-story section with a garage in it?

    TED: Yes.

    TOM: Alright. So here’s what – and does the garage have any living space under it or is it just a garage?

    TED: It’s just a garage.

    TOM: Alright. So what we need to do is at the [ridge vent on the top of the two-story section] (ph) we need to add a ridge vent and that’s going to go down the entire peak of the roof. I want you to get one made by Air Vent. It’s a CertainTeed company. I think their number is 800-Air-Vent. At least it’s been for many, many years. This vent is going to open up the top ridge space and let air get out of it. The reason I like the Air Vent ones is because they have an extra little flap on the side that speeds up the depressurization.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: So as wind blows over your roof it sort of sucks the hot air out of the attic space.

    Now, that’s only half of the solution. The other half is the soffit vents at the overhang. You’re probably going to need to pull off whatever soffit material is there because if it’s covered with vinyl or aluminum soffit material it’s not letting any air in unless it’s perforated. You need to have fully vented soffits. This way you’ll have air that goes in the soffit, rides up under the roof sheathing and cools it in the summer, which in your part of the country is going to be critical to making that roof last …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … and it’s going to exit at the ridge.

    Now, the flip side of this is if you cool the attic off in the summer you’re also going to tend to dry out the attic space in the winter and that’s a good thing because it makes your insulation more effective. If you have a house that’s got a roof that’s only lasting you 10 or 12 years, it is definitely not ventilated properly.

    LESLIE: And you need …

    TED: So when should I start doing this? I mean it’s coming up to winter time so it’s probably not a good idea to do it now.

    TOM: No, I would wait til the spring.


    TOM: At this point, I would wait til the spring. But it’s definitely going to be one of the first projects you do this spring and if you do this the correct way, Ted, you’re going to be good to go for the next 20-plus years with that roof.

    LESLIE: And you want to remove all roofing material from there and start from scratch.

    TOM: Yeah, definitely.

    TED: OK. Start from scratch.

    TOM: Because the additional roofing material holds a lot of …

    LESLIE: Cuts its life span.

    TOM: Yeah, holds a lot of heat and it actually will accelerate the deterioration of the upper layer.

    TED: OK. Alright, well thank you very much.

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

    So not only did the first roof last 11 years; the second roof lasted 11 years.

    LESLIE: Which is crazy.

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: I mean they should have been just at the end of the first roof now.

    TOM: Yeah. Even the most economical roofs these days come with a 20-year warranty.

    LESLIE: Good thing Tom’s the home improvement psychic and you knew exactly what was happening there.

    TOM: (chuckling) Been there done that. (Leslie chuckles) That’s what we do. Pick up the phone and call us and we will look into your crystal house ball as well. (Leslie chuckles) At 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: You are tuned in to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show and we are here to help you. Think of us as your support system and you are the foreman of your home improvement job. (Tom chuckles) So call us now with your home repair, home improvement question. If you don’t feel like calling us now call us 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, could your project stand a bit of illumination? Well, a lighting designer can help. Find out why, after this.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and you should give us a call right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and you could be our lucky winner, winning a great prize for this time of year. It’s a Christmas tree safety prize package from the folks over at LightKeeper and it includes some really cool stuff. It’s got a device that’s going to fix that one nonworking light in your string of lights so that the entire set will work again and you don’t just have to throw it out like me because you just get so frustrated pulling each and every light out. And it also includes a sensor that’s going to let you know if your live tree needs water and it’s even going to alert you and your family if something’s going wacky and that tree is on fire. It’s worth 70 bucks. It could be yours for free just for asking your question on the air. So give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. One caller wins this hour and it could be you.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Speaking of lights, you probably put a lot of thought into your holiday lights but you know, you can do the same with any room in your house all year long. When you’re redesigning a room, think about the lighting and consider hiring a designer with expertise in lighting your home. You know, a lighting designer works with the contractor and installer to make sure the right light is shed in living spaces and in task areas because there’s actually different types of light that you want in different spaces. Kitchens and home offices are often the most shady projects so, here, a lighting designer can really, really help and can also save you a fair amount of stress if you don’t have the right type of light in your house.

    You want more tips? Head on over to MoneyPit.com and click on Repair and Improve. Or pick up the phone right now and call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Doug in Rhode Island is dealing with some frozen pipes. How can we help? What’s going on ?

    DOUG: We have a summer home which, for the first time, is going to be unoccupied for the winter and the winters get pretty cold here in New England. And I was wondering what your thoughts were on filling the forced hot water pipes with an antifreeze and shutting down the oil so that we do not have to keep the house heated for the winter. I didn’t know if that would be a good thing or a bad thing.

    TOM: Well, you typically wouldn’t fill the heating system pipes with antifreeze. You typically drain the entire heating system and blow it out with a compressor so you don’t have any water in it.

    DOUG: OK.

    LESLIE: Similar to like your sprinklers outside, correct?

    TOM: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah, you would drain the whole system.

    Now, with the toilets, sometimes you will find that when folks winterize a house they will put a bit of antifreeze in the toilets just so that it gets into the traps or the places that you can’t drain as easily.

    DOUG: Sure.

    TOM: But for the most part, if you’re going to winterize a house it’s usually drained down.

    DOUG: OK. And kind of a follow-up question. If I decide to heat the house, what is the lowest temperature that I could put it down to, to conserve the oil, as opposed to blowing out the pipes?

    TOM: The concern would be letting it get too cold and if you do that you’re going to have a lot of condensation and that’s going to cause house problems. So I wouldn’t go much below around 62, 63 degrees.

    DOUG: OK. Fantastic. Well, I do appreciate your help and we’ll take care of that.

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

    DOUG: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Alright, if you’ve got a question about attic insulation you’d be Mark from Ohio. Mark, how can we help you?

    MARK: Yeah, I’d like to turn my attic into, basically, a toy room for my son and I.


    MARK: And I’m wondering just a couple quick questions. Is that considered – I’ve got a full walk-in staircase that goes upstairs. It’s not one of the pull-down things. It’s a regular staircase.

    TOM: OK.

    MARK: Is that considered a living space that I have to have egress windows in and such?

    TOM: Are you using it as a living space right now, Mark?

    MARK: No.

    TOM: Well …

    MARK: No, it’s just an attic and I just want to turn it into a toy room so I can put my trains and his slot cars up there.

    TOM: Your trains and your slot cars, huh?

    MARK: Yeah.

    TOM: Alright.

    MARK: And so that ties in with the insulation that I want to ask about but that was just one question that came to mind right quick.

    TOM: Alright. Well, first of all, it’s not considered an egress in the sense that you have to have an additional exit from it as far as I know but you need to check with your local code authorities to be sure.

    Secondly, what your real question is, if you turn that into a heated space …

    MARK: Right.

    TOM: … what do you about the insulation.

    MARK: Right.

    TOM: And the answer to that is if that attic is going to be a heated, finished space, then the insulation moves from the ceiling of the second floor up to the underside of the roof rafters. That becomes the thermal barrier.

    Now, to do that you have to be very careful to make sure you maintain some ventilation space. You can’t just insulate the entire rafter bay because you’ll trap moisture against the underside of the roof sheathing and cause it rot out. So what I want you to do is this. If your rafters are 2x8s you put in six inches of insulation. You leave about a two-inch gap between the insulation and the underside of the roof sheathing so that you have some airspace there and then make sure you put ridge vents in and soffit vents in – soffit vents at the overhang and ridge vents at the peak – so that air sort of washes under that space and pulls out any moisture that collects there.

    Many times I’ve seen folks try to overfill that space of the rafter bay with insulation and after about five to eight years you start to see sagging of the roof sheathing from the outside as the wood above that insulation rots away. So it’s important to get that airspace in there.

    MARK: Alrighty. If I were to – that’s not a problem. I’ve got a ridge vent and perforated eaves. What about the floor of the attic? Can I put some insulation in that just so that if I kept the upstairs, say, 50 degrees if we’re not playing to keep the rest of the house warmer?

    TOM: And think how much quieter it’ll be with you up there playing with those slot cars here. (Leslie chuckles)

    MARK: Uh-huh.

    TOM: Your family below will not be disturbed so there is some science to this. Yeah, I think it is probably a good idea, in this situation, to keep the insulation where it is and just add the additional insulation underneath the roof rafters.

    MARK: Alrighty. Do I need a vapor barrier between the second floor and the attic?

    TOM: No.

    MARK: If that’s going to be, you know, say a 20-degree difference between the living space and the upstairs that’s not being used.

    TOM: No. No, I don’t think so. Not in that case.

    MARK: OK. Just in the ceiling and the attic roof.

    TOM: Yep. Mm-hmm. That’s right.

    MARK: Alrighty. Thank you much.

    TOM: Alright, Mark. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. As Mark zooms off (Leslie chuckles) to the slot car racetrack in his attic.

    LESLIE: That’s a nice project.

    TOM: That is a nice project.

    LESLIE: Susan in Michigan, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    SUSAN: Hi. Well, I have an old farmhouse – a two-story farmhouse – and I have a question on what to do about an outdoor staircase.


    SUSAN: OK. My question is – OK, this is a staircase that was built to go up to the second story that used to be an apartment.

    TOM: OK.

    SUSAN: OK? But now it’s the stairs to nowhere because I – it’s a one-family house now and – so it’s just a staircase that goes to nowhere but is enclosed. OK? I have a handyman who told me it would cost about $2,000 to take it off or $2,000 to like insulate it, reside the outside, drywall it and maybe make it an additional little room off my entry. But I’m kind of stuck. What makes more sense.

    TOM: So he wants 2,000 bucks from you and that’s like his number? (chuckling) Beyond that, he’ll do whatever you want, huh?

    SUSAN: (chuckling) Yeah, well. And he’s kind of a family friend …

    TOM: Oh, OK.

    SUSAN: … so I kind of go with him because he helps around a little (INAUDIBLE) around my house and …

    TOM: Well, what’s your end goal?

    SUSAN: It’s the ugliest thing and …

    TOM: Yeah.

    SUSAN: … it’s the side of my house and it’s what you see when you pull up in the driveway. It’s really old. It has old clapboard on it. You know, I used to repaint it every year. Two old, old wooden doors. A window that’s being held up with a board. (chuckling)

    TOM: Hmm. Well, could you use the space if you fix it up?

    SUSAN: Probably.

    TOM: Yeah.

    SUSAN: I wouldn’t (ph) probably heat it.

    TOM: Right.

    SUSAN: But that’s the other thing I’m thinking. It’s totally not insulated.

    TOM: Right.

    SUSAN: You know, you can see the rough nails and everything.

    TOM: Well, maybe this could be the first step in trying to create an additional finished space there. You know, a lot of these old buildings that have these additions to them or these standalone buildings were put up way before we had, you know, the pesky codes to follow. (chuckling) (INAUDIBLE) building codes. (Leslie chuckles)

    SUSAN: Right.

    TOM: And so if you take it down you may not be able to get it back. So, you know, if he thinks 2K will fit it up and have it look nice, perhaps do some landscaping around it that would probably be a better step than tearing it out.

    SUSAN: OK. I’ll keep it then. (chuckles)

    TOM: Alright. See? Simple as that.

    SUSAN: OK.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) You convinced her.

    SUSAN: Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome. 888-666-3974.

    Wondering whether you should tear down part of your house? Call us. (chuckling)

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Darn, pesky codes; designed to keep us safe.

    David, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we help you with today?

    DAVID: I just made my house maintenance free and in the process I need to replace my gutters. So I’m having gutters installed or in the process of having them installed. Do those leaf guards really work and, if so, which is the one to purchase?

    TOM: Well, yes they do work. The problems that I’ve heard associated with them is when you have a very tall, very steep roof and the water develops a lot of velocity coming down in a heavy rain then the leaves will not only wash off the roof but so will most of the water; land at the foundation perimeter and cause a basement leakage issue.

    DAVID: Right.

    TOM: So, as long as you have a fairly, you know, normally-sloped roof, then they will work fairly well because they work on the principle of surface tension. The leaves basically wash off the top and the water hugs to the gutter guard and goes into the gutter and then runs down the drain.

    The other thing to make sure you do is run those gutter downspouts out away from the foundation perimeter. This is the perfect time to do it if you’re replacing your downspouts and your gutters.

    DAVID: Yep, I already plan on doing that.

    TOM: Good job.

    DAVID: And the reason why, you know, one company says, hey, theirs is the best and another company says theirs is the best. I talk to a company that doesn’t use them at all and they say they don’t work.

    TOM: (chuckling) Yeah, it’s hard to get impartial expert advice. I put one of the vinyl gutter guards on my gutters and they’ve worked pretty well. These are also louvered gutters that they’re sort of slotted at the top and the leaves have been washing off and the gutters have been clog-free now for about four or five years. And they were inexpensive and I did it myself.

    DAVID: OK.

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

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    Up next, can you tell the difference between a $100 kitchen cabinet and one that costs like over 1,000 bucks? Well, I bet your bank account can for sure. (Leslie chuckles) Up next, we’ll get the buyer’s guide to kitchen cabinets from the experts at Fine Homebuilding magazine.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Rheem tankless water heaters, which qualify for a $300 energy efficient tax credit if purchased before the end of this year. Learn more at SmarterHotWater.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us now with your home improvement question. Call us with your do-it-yourself dilemma; especially if you’re thinking about installing a kitchen. Do you know that a kitchen remodel is just one of a handful of makeovers that bring the biggest return on investment? But what you might now know is that you don’t have to rip everything out to the studs. There are easier ways to tackle this project.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right. Even just replacing some of your cabinets or adding a few new ones in key places can make a big difference. But if you’ve been shopping you know that there is a dizzying array of options out there, including just as dizzying a price tag. You know, so how do you choose what’s best for you, your budget and your kitchen? Well, we are here to help.

    Joining us to explain the difference between $100 and $1,000 cabinets is Kevin Ireton, the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, Leslie. Hi, Tom.

    TOM: This is an overwhelming topic, Kevin, because a kitchen renovation is a pretty big project and there’s lots of options out there. Now, we mentioned that you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Last November Leslie and I actually did a complete remodel on a house in partnership with the AARP where we needed to add additional cabinets. We were able to reuse the birch cabinets that were there because I’ve got to tell you, that was like the golden year of kitchen cabinet construction.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: I mean the birch plywood cabinets were virtually indestructible. We added some IKEA cabinets to that and actually came up with a pretty matching kitchen even though we didn’t spend a boatload of money. But today it doesn’t seem like the quality of cabinets is anything near to those birch plywood boxes we had years ago. So how do you get a good cabinet job?

    KEVIN: Well, the truth is you’ve really got to do your homework because you can spend – as Leslie said, you can spend $100 on a cabinet that’s, say, a 24-inch base cabinet for your kitchen. You could spend $1,200 for a cabinet that may look very similar. So to understand what’s different you’ve got to open the thing up and look on the inside.

    TOM: First you say go for plywood boxes even if you’ll never see them. How come?

    KEVIN: Well, the least expensive cabinets are typically made with particleboard that’s veneered.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    KEVIN: And the trouble is it won’t hold up very well to pots and pans being knocked around and also, it’s more susceptible to water. So plywood, the old standby, is just sturdier and more durable.

    LESLIE: How does that affect the price, though?

    KEVIN: Obviously the price goes up, but even lesser expensive stock cabinets can be found with plywood. It’s other things that really drive up the price of that $1,000 cabinet.

    LESLIE: What about joinery? So often you see things that are just butt jointed. Do you look for fancier joinery as far as when you’re dealing with the drawer bodies themselves? Maybe with dovetails? Or does that really not make a difference?

    KEVIN: Well, it does matter. The most expensive cabinets are going to have dovetailed hardwood drawers and those are going to be beautiful and very durable. Lesser expensive cabinets will still have – you can get solid wood sides but they might be rabeted together with screws or nails. What you again want to watch out for is particleboard drawers that are simply stapled together because those are the ones that are likely to fall apart the quickest.

    TOM: And the doors really take a lot of wear and tear.

    We’re talking to Kevin Ireton – he is the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine – about how to choose a good kitchen cabinet.

    Now, Kevin. I think that many people would make their entire cabinet decision based on the quality of the door. But you guys say that solid wood isn’t always best. How come?

    KEVIN: Well, the truth is that wood does expand and contract with changes in humidity and sometimes that expansion and contraction can create cracks or openings in the door. So some manufacturers will use veneered MDF for the panel and a frame and panel door and many times that’s a very wise choice. It’s very stable and will hold up much better.

    The other thing is that sometimes those veneers can be more attractive than a panel that has been glued up by a bunch of separate pieces. That’s one of the things to look out for when you’re buying any kind of kitchen cabinet is you want to make sure that the wood is pleasing if it has been glued up.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And what about making choices – I mean Tom and I always joke that hardware is like the bling for your cabinetry. But how do you know what is – aside from your personal stylistic choices – what makes a good drawer pull; what makes a good hinge?

    KEVIN: Drawer pulls, I think that the two main things are aesthetics and feel. I mean if you like the look then you want to grab it and does it feel solid and good in your hand or are you grabbing something that essentially feels ethereal because it’s hollow in the back and almost like it’s going to come off in your hand.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    KEVIN: As far as drawer slides, you know, the premier drawer slides are full-extension drawer slides so that the drawer comes all the way out; you can get to everything in the drawer.

    TOM: That really makes it a heck of a lot easier, too.

    KEVIN: It sure does. And the other thing, these days the premier kitchen cabinets have under-mount drawer slides so that you don’t have to look at them. Now, personally, I like the look of drawer slides, so I don’t mind that, and you do pay an upcharge for those hidden drawer slides.

    TOM: Great advice from Kevin Ireton, the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine. That article is on newsstands now. It’s called A Buyer’s Guide to Kitchen Cabinets. You’ll find that in the pages of Fine Homebuilding magazine.

    Kevin, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Thanks for having me, guys.

    LESLIE: Yeah, well you hope after spending all that money, whether big or small, on your kitchen remodel for those cabinets, that it’s going to last a long time and you want that same thing to happen when you’re working on your roofs. Now, most roofs, all those materials, they’re designed to last about 20 years. But if you’re not sure how old the roof on your home is, we are going to tell you how you know when it needs to be replaced. We’re going to tell you those warning signs that you need to look out for in just a few.

    (promo/theme song)

    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: And Leslie, the new year is just upon us …


    TOM: … and I thought that perhaps for our gift to our audience for the new year we should come up with some rules for home improvement.


    TOM: Well, the first one is never fix a plumbing problem above your head.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) OK.

    TOM: And the second one is before you knock out a wall make sure it’s not holding up your house.

    LESLIE: True. Those are all sound advice.

    TOM: That’s all good, right? I think we should come up with a rule a week and this way we’ll keep everyone safe and happy with their projects all at the same time.

    Hey, do you need some home improvement advice? Call us right now. We’re here to help you out at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Now, we like to have a lot of fun on this show but here’s something that is not fun: a Christmas tree fire. We hear a lot about them this time of year and they can happen with artificial trees as well and that’s why we’re giving away a great prize this hour that will keep you safe throughout the holiday season. It’s a prize pack including a Christmas tree safety system and lighting repair kit from a company called LightKeeper Pro. One caller to 888-MONEY-PIT is going to win this prize worth 70 bucks, so pick up the phone right now and call us at 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: You know, when you pick up that phone and call 888-MONEY-PIT you’ve got to ask a home improvement question to be eligible for the prize and maybe your question has to do with roofs. You know, you don’t really think about them a lot but they do protect your home and everything inside and your roof does put up with a lot over the years that you’ve had it: ultraviolet rays; rain; wind; snow; ice; everything that Mother Nature can toss at it. And while many of today’s roofing materials can last, you know, 20 years or more, the actual lifespan of your roof might be a lot shorter because it depends on a bunch of things like climate, quality of the materials used, the installation, how you maintain it. And you really want to make sure that you prevent your roof from springing a leak or even caving in to your living room. So go ahead and take a good look at it. Look at it. Don’t ignore it. It’s up there. It’s doing an important job.

    So start by checking your ceiling for any discoloration or spotting. That’s a good sign that you’ve got a leak. The same thing goes for your walls’ plasterboard. If you see cracked paint or peeling wallpaper, those could be some good indicators of a leaky roof and also spots of mold that you might see or mildew or rot on walls or ceilings or even on insulation and electrical systems. You really do have to get into stuff and check things out to see if there’s a leak going on somewhere.

    TOM: Now the inspection should continue on the outside. You’re looking for obvious holes or gaps as well as missing shingles or shingles that are warped or blistered or torn. And in fact, you know, there was a defect that was associated with sort of the first generation of fiberglass shingles, which are about 15 or 20 years old right now, that actually causes them to crack right along the lines where the plywood seams are. I can actually – I’ve been on roofs, Leslie, where you can see the plywood sheet like through the roofing shingles.

    LESLIE: Really?

    TOM: Through the cracks. That’s right. Goes across eight, down four, across eight the other way and up another four. And so you really have to look very, very carefully. Get a pair of binoculars if you don’t want to go on the roof yourself. And remember, when you’re doing those repairs or replacing your roof, make sure your roofer uses good-quality, premium waterproofing materials. One leading brand is Grace. Grace makes Tri-Flex 30 and Ice and Water Shield; two products that should go under a roof’s covering and will keep water from getting in.

    For more information on how to waterproof your home’s roof, you can visit GraceAtHome.com or call us right now with your roofing question at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    Who’s next?

    LESLIE: Taking a call from North Carolina with Lorinda (sp) who’s got a driveway question. What’s going on?

    LORINDA (sp): We have a retaining wall that separates our driveway from our yard. The driveway goes down to the basement so it’s a pretty good, long wall and now the wall is cracked. And my husband thinks the only way he can fix it is to move the dirt from behind it and fill it full of gravel and redo it. Is there an easier way we can do this?

    TOM: Well, do you want to fix the crack or do you want to just take the pressure off the wall or both?

    LORINDA (sp): Both. He’s afraid the wall’s going to fall.

    TOM: How wide open is that crack right now, Lorinda (sp)?

    LORINDA (sp): It’s not wide. It’s – you know, it’s not a wide-open crack. It’s just the wall sort of leans on the top.

    TOM: Mm-hmm. Well, if it’s not leaning too much you may not have to take that drastic a step. Your husband is correct in that pulling the dirt out and putting drainage behind it, which is what would be happening if you put the stone and perhaps some drain tile behind it, would take the pressure off it. But what I might suggest in the short term is to adjust the grading to make sure that the water slopes away from the wall so that you don’t trap water behind the wall. If there’s a way to create a swail between the wall and the slope of water that goes into it then that will take the pressure off because the reason it cracks is – what happens is the water gets behind it and as the ground freezes it tends to push and heave on that wall so it has sort of a ratcheting effect that happens winter to winter to winter. If you can simply improve the drainage so that there’s less water against that wall then it’s not going to move anymore.

    LORINDA (sp): Oh, OK.

    TOM: So why don’t you give that a start? Because these things happen very slowly. If it’s just a hairline crack right now, if it stills gets bigger then he can tackle the big job next summer.

    LORINDA (sp): Well, I just dreaded him having to dig up my yard. (Tom and Leslie laugh)

    LESLIE: I think you also didn’t want him to be right. (Tom laughs)

    LORINDA (sp): Right. (laughs)

    TOM: Lorinda (sp), thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LORINDA (sp): Thank you.

    LESLIE: Robert in Colorado has a wiring question. What can we help you with?

    ROBERT: Hi, I love your show.

    LESLIE: Thanks so much, Robert.

    ROBERT: Well, I have three lights outside that’s operated by my switch inside. It turns on my porch light and two lights that are on each side of my garage entry and I’d like to put a photoelectric cell on there so we can go out in the afternoon and come home with the lights on. And not sure which one I should open up and how to wire it up.

    TOM: So you have three lights?

    ROBERT: Three lights. Uh-huh.

    TOM: Well, what you’re going to have to do is figure out – you have one switch that turns on those three lights or three separate switches?

    ROBERT: Just one switch.

    TOM: Alright, so what you have to do is you have to put the photoelectric switch between the switch and lights, essentially.


    TOM: So that it will – and then the switch would have to be on all the time and now it’s running off of the photoelectric so that when you – when it gets dark it comes on.

    ROBERT: Right.

    TOM: Or do you want a motion detector so that when you walk up to it it comes on? There’s really two different sensors.


    TOM: Now an easier thing to do might be, if you’re having trouble figuring out how to do that, is to replace the light fixtures themselves and that – because many of them today have photoelectric sensors built right into them and, frankly, the cost is so low on these now that it’s kind of less expensive than doing all the wiring.

    ROBERT: Ah, good idea. Alright, I’ll check it out.

    TOM: Yeah, I just put a new one in my back porch because the old one had gone away and I think it only cost me about 50 bucks.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    ROBERT: Wow.

    LESLIE: And there’s so many nice fixtures available, too.

    TOM: Exactly.

    ROBERT: Alright. Well, I’ll head out for my store and check them out. Thanks for your help.

    TOM: Up next, we dive into the e-mail bag to answer this question: how do you know when your garbage disposer is ready to call it quits? Well, assuming it’s still running – otherwise you know it’s gone – there are a couple of things to check for and we will tell you how to do that, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is being brought to you by – well, by us. Save hundreds a month on groceries, not to mention significant savings on home improvement products and services with your new Money Pit American Homeowners Association membership. And get $50 in Zircon tools if you join in the next 30 minutes. Call now. 866-REAL-HOME. That’s 866-REAL-HOME. Now here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Making good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And you are tuned to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Hey, do you want to listen to us while you’re working on your next home improvement project? Radio is so much safer for that because you can see what you’re doing and just listen to us as opposed to watching a home improvement television show (Leslie chuckles), which has its place, Leslie, I will admit. I’m not here to diss your fine work. (chuckles) But you know, it’s just a little safer to listen while you work and you can do that if you download our podcast at MoneyPit.com. While you’re there, check out our Tip of the Day and sign up for our free e-newsletter. Not only is it all free; you also get the best advice and information you need to help you save more money around your money pit all week long.

    LESLIE: And while you’re there, go ahead and click on Ask Tom and Leslie and e-mail us a question. And we’re going to dip right into the e-mail bag right now and we’ve got one here from Olivia in Los Angeles who writes: ‘I have a two-year-old garbage disposal and it does not grind the food that falls into it. Is it easy to fix myself and if it’s not fixable what brand is the best if this one’s just got to be replaced?’

    TOM: Well, aside from the brand question there’s a couple of things that you can do to check it. Typically, garbage disposers will jam up if they get a bit of debris in them and one thing to check if they jam up is the reset button which is on the bottom of the unit. It’s usually a very small, often times a black or a red button.

    LESLIE: Secret and tricky.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s kind of like a mini-circuit breaker. And that’s usually on the bottom of the unit. So, look in the cabinet. Look under the unit. Look up. Get a flashlight. If you see the button, push it. And then when you go to turn the disposer on, listen to hear if it sounds like it’s binding. If it’s binding it might be jammed.

    Now, unsticking a disposer is a tricky operation, but I have done it with something like a broom handle or a wood stick.

    LESLIE: Definitely not your hand.

    TOM: Definitely not your hand. Sometimes you can sort of – turn the power off, of course; unplug the unit and then using a stick, try to move the impellers of the garbage disposer around. Sometimes it’s just a little stone or something that’s jammed in there that stops it and I’ve freed many disposers by doing it this way. If those two tricks don’t work, it’s time to replace it.

    In terms of brands, look, there’s a lot of great brands out there: GE; Insinkerator. The Insinkerator folks have one that I know has an anti-jam function to it that if starts to feel like it’s going to jam it actually increases the torque to sort of power through those jams.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) To get right through it.

    TOM: But you know, if it’s time to replace it, it definitely is something you should do. You should not try to repair it because it’s just not cost effective.

    LESLIE: Alright, we’ve got another here from Richard in Oyster Bay, New York who writes: ‘I have a 100-year-old home. It’s got a nice-sized attic that I would eventually like to convert into living space. It currently does not have any ridge vents, attic fans; only a few soffit vents. I’ve heard that spray foam insulation will allow me to put sheetrock directly onto the roof beams without damaging the life of the roof and without having to create a space for ventilation. Is this true?’

    TOM: Actually, it is true if you use isocyanurate foam insulation. Isonene is …

    LESLIE: Is that the ICF?

    TOM: Isonene is a very good product that’ll do just that. But I caution you, it has to be properly and professionally installed. It’s not the kind of thing you want the installer to install for the very first time.

    This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show available 24/7/365 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Gosh, those are a lot of numbers. (Leslie chuckles) But they all lead to one thing and that is, hopefully, the answer to your home improvement projects; the answers to your design dilemmas.

    Hey, here is a – here is a home improvement dilemma. How do you clean up the big mess that will be left when it comes time to haul the holiday tree out of your house?

    LESLIE: You know, no matter how good of a job you think you’re doing – and I am a fastidious cleaner –

    TOM: Yeah.

    LESLIE: – I find needles like July, August.

    TOM: (laughing) I know, right?

    LESLIE: All of a sudden I’m like, ‘Ow, what is that? Agh! Christmas tree.’

    TOM: Next week we’re going to tell you exactly how to make sure this doesn’t happen to you with some holiday tree cleanup tips.

    That’s all the time we have though for now. 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 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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