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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: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974, where we think anything worth starting is worth starting over with us. So call us …

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Or at least starting a new project with us.

    TOM: That’s right. We don’t judge, we just are here to help you solve those home improvement dilemmas. So call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. This hour there’s nothing like the smell of a fresh cut Christmas tree to bring that spirit of the holidays into your house but unfortunately, all of those pine needles can turn your carpet into a virtual porcupine. (chuckling) We’re going to tell you how to keep those needles contained as you set up that holiday tree.

    LESLIE: And you know, all it takes is one burned out light bulb to take the twinkle out of your holiday lights and man, is that annoying. It takes forever to find out where that problem is. But later this hour we’re going to tell you how to fix that problem and save you your string of lights.

    TOM: Also ahead, are you thinking about replacing your windows? It’s a great idea. It’s a great project that’s going to save you money and energy. Plus it will add a lot of value to your house. But what do you need to know before the installers show up? We’re going to have an expert join us with some tips and advice on how to make sure that project goes super smooth.

    LESLIE: And one caller we choose this hour is going to win a great prize. It’s a pack of locks. Not a pack of dogs, a pack of locks from Master Lock. So call in your home improvement or your home repair question right now and get that free Christmas gift for yourself.

    TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Talking cleaning with Sandra in Texas. How can we help you?

    SANDRA: My husband and I have recently moved into a house that we purchased. And the owner had refinished the hardwood floors. And then somebody did some plaster work and has dropped either plaster or cement or both in various places on the floor and I’d like to know how to get it off.

    TOM: Very carefully. If the floors were refinished, I think with a plastic trowel you might have a shot at scraping some of that away. And then what you’re going to want to use is a very fine abrasive pad, like a Scotch pad …

    SANDRA: Uh-huh.

    TOM: … and try to rub it very carefully using small sort of circular motions, like you’re buffing your car, to try to get the rest of it out. You could also try some rubbing compound if you get down to having just a little bit left. And then, once you’re done, you may find that the floor in that area is a little duller than the surrounding areas and you could combat that with some paste wax. But it has to be floor paste wax because it’s not slippery.

    SANDRA: Oh, OK. Alright, thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: If you’re listening on WYLL you’re in good company. Our next caller is Beverly from Illinois. What can we do for you?

    BEVERLY: I have this problem. I have some hardened grout on my tiles in the bathroom.


    TOM: OK.

    BEVERLY: And I don’t know how to get it off without (inaudible).

    LESLIE: What are the tiles?

    BEVERLY: Well, they’re ceramic tiles.

    LESLIE: So they’re polished, they’re sealed, they have a smooth coating?

    BEVERLY: No, they were never sealed. It was a new installation. I kind of like had to go someplace and left it for like a year and got back to it to try to finish up this remodeling project and it’s a mess.

    TOM: The ceramic tile. Is it a glazed tile?

    BEVERLY: I don’t really know that. All I know is it’s kind of like a rough looking kind of wall tile.

    TOM: Mm, OK.

    BEVERLY: This is my first experience with tile so I’m not very good at …

    TOM: Well, if it’s a glazed tile, you may have an opportunity to scrape off the grout. If it’s an unglazed tile …

    LESLIE: It might have sucked its way in.

    TOM: Yeah. They’re going to be very absorbent and that grout’s just going to suck its way in and you’re not ever going to be able to find a way to get it out.

    BEVERLY: Does this mean I’m going to just have to rip it all out and start all over again?

    TOM: If it’s that bad, yeah, potentially. If it’s glazed, you may be able to scrape it off. If it’s unglazed, you can’t. Because it’s basically hardened now so it’s – you know, it’s not something that you can dissolve or wipe away. I mean grout is permanent. If you have grout that’s in between the mortar joints and you’re trying to get it out, you can use like a Dremel or a grout saw and you can grind it out. But if it’s grout on the surface of the tile and you can’t scrape it off because it’s absorbed into it, basically that tile is now stained. And even if you got the material off, you would have a stain that was left behind. You follow me, Beverly?

    BEVERLY: Yeah, I got it.

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

    LESLIE: Art in Indiana’s doing some work in the bath. How can we help?

    ART: Yes, I am going – tearing out some old ceramic tile over an old lath and plaster wall in a bath – in a shower. And I’m wondering what the right way to prepare the wall for putting the ceramic tile back; in particular, is there any type of waterproofing I should put over any drywall that I use to repair the old lath and plaster wall that was underneath the ceramic tile.

    TOM: Are you taking the old wall out completely, Art?

    ART: Yes, I’m going down to the bare studs and then going back with waterproof drywall.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Well, don’t use drywall.

    ART: But I had read somewhere where I should put some sort of waterproofing …

    TOM: Don’t use drywall.

    ART: OK.

    TOM: That would be a big mistake. You want to use a tile backer and it’s called Dens Armor.

    ART: OK.

    TOM: There’s a version of Dens Armor, Leslie, I think that’s designed specifically for tiles.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm, I think it’s – I think it’s simply called the Dens Armor tile backer.

    TOM: Yep.

    LESLIE: And it’s the same principle that they use for their Dens Armor drywall which has a fiberglass facing; except this is really made to really take a lot of moisture, which is what you’re going to get. Because even though you’re putting tile on top of a moisture proof product, the grout lines are still going to, you know, suck in a lot of water and put it to that bottom surface. So you want to make sure it’s really something that can get wet.

    ART: Yes. Yeah, like cement board or something to that effect.

    TOM: Yeah, and it’s like that. That’s right, it’s a replacement for that but it’s better. And you know, Art, you’re going through all the work of pulling off this old tile and the old plaster lath, you certainly want to put something on that’s just as durable as what you had to start with.

    ART: Most definitely. (chuckling) It’s a major …

    TOM: It’s a big job.

    ART: It’s a major demolition …

    TOM: Exactly.

    ART: … and I want it to last when we go back with something new.

    TOM: Well, if you use the Dens product it will last.

    ART: Alright. Well, I certainly appreciate it. Listen to your show and you have quite a bit of good information.

    LESLIE: Thanks, Art.

    TOM: Thank you, Art. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Roofing’s on the mind of Arthur in Florida. What can we do for you?

    ARTHUR: Well, my wife and I are in the process of purchasing a 1973 home that has a wood shingle roof. It’s gone through the recent hurricanes we’ve had here in 2004 and 2005 with only minor repair. But we were wondering what we should be aware of; in effect, the pros and cons of the roof as it ages.

    LESLIE: How old is the roof now?

    ARTHUR: It was – 1973, so it’d be about 34 years old.

    LESLIE: Oh, it’s original to the house.

    ARTHUR: Yes.

    LESLIE: So Tom, do you think that there’s any sort of wear and tear that’s already occurred; especially since the wood is so old? We’re probably dealing with some rot.

    TOM: Well, it’s possible. I mean some of the wood roofs can last a long time if they’re put on properly, Arthur. Generally, it has to do with how much ventilation they get. If they’re put on and they well so that they can dry out, then they can last a long time. My feeling, though, is once a wood roof fails, it’s probably not worth replacing. Because I think you’re going to get …

    LESLIE: [Or repairing] (ph).

    TOM: Well, I mean minor repairs but when it’s completely failed, it’s not worth putting a second wood roof on. In other words, taking that off …

    ARTHUR: Right.

    TOM: … and replacing it with a wood roof. I would suggest to you that in the last 30 years, the technology with asphalt shingles has gotten so much better that you can realistically put on an asphalt shingle roof that gives the appearance of being a dimensional roof. It can look like wood shakes or shingles or even a tile roof if it’s installed correctly.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Well and even with being in Florida, Arthur, you should be looking for something that can withstand high winds. And is it Owens Corning that makes a high wind roof shingle?

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a good point because it needs to be able to stand up to high winds and the high wind shingles take winds of, I think, up to 100 miles an hour.

    ARTHUR: Well, the architectural shingles did do as well down here as the metal roofs did, so …

    TOM: Well, the metal roofs are always going to do well.

    ARTHUR: But this one took very little repair on the – and it was inspected by a company before we offered to purchase the house and they said it was in great shape. So, they had about 50, fewer shingles that had – that were a little bit warped but the rest of the roof was absolutely just in tact.

    TOM: Well, if it’s minor maintenance like that, I’d tell you to continue to do that. But if the roof ever gets to the point where it was severely damaged or it really is wearing out and starting to add into a lot of maintenance cost on a year-by-year basis, I wouldn’t recommend replacing it with a wood roof. At that point, I would go with an asphalt shingle roof.

    ARTHUR: OK. Do you have any guesses on how long a wood shingle roof like that would last if it’s put on well?

    TOM: If it’s put on well, I’d say 15 years. Maybe 20.


    LESLIE: So you’re well beyond that.

    TOM: Yeah.

    ARTHUR: We are.

    TOM: So, that roof doesn’t owe you a dime, Art. (laughter) Alright? Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright, holiday home improvement fans. Still don’t know what to get that home improvement fan on your list or you don’t know about a project or something going on in your house and maybe you’re not doing it right or you want some help? Well, you know you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even on the holidays. We’re here for you at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Well, are you pining away this holiday season over whether to have a real tree or to save yourself the mess of needles everywhere and go with a fake one?

    LESLIE: Oh, I hate to hear those words: fake tree.

    TOM: Well – I know. Fake tree. It just doesn’t go together. Up next, we’ll give you the solution to a problem that’s been needling you all these years, after this.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: AARP is proud to sponsor The Money Pit. Visit www.AARP.org/UniversalHome to learn more about making your home more functional and comfortable for years to come.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    Alright, folks. So those pine needles. Are they giving you a bigger headache than the holiday eggnog? Well, to prevent needles from spreading when you take down that Christmas tree, buy one of those plastic tree bags and place it underneath the tree stand before you even begin decorating. Then you can cover up that plastic bag with your tree skirt and when the holidays are over, just remove the ornaments and the stand, pull that bag up and toss the whole thing outside. No mess; no acupuncture from those dried up, sharp old needles you’re going to find in June. And it will really be helpful. And you know what? Sometimes – make sure you get a good, heavy weight bag because sometimes they’re a little bit too flimsy and when you pull them up the tree pops right through. But what we like to do also is we spread out a flat sheet and just sort of spread it around the tree while we’re taking everything down.

    TOM: Right, mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: And then once we’re done, we lay the lay the tree onto the sheet and then wrap it all up and then finagle it out of the house and then shake it all out outside.

    TOM: And you know, that plastic bag can also protect your floors from some overaggressive watering (chuckling) of that tree when it tends to spill out. I know that in my house, my kids love to be in charge of the tree watering and sometimes they …

    LESLIE: Except they each water it five times a day. (chuckling)

    TOM: Yeah, they put more water on the floor than they do on the tree. So it can have a lot of benefits, using those big plastic tree bags.

    LESLIE: And now that you have a dog this year, Tom, you’re going to notice that perhaps your dog likes to drink the tree water. (chuckling)

    TOM: Ooh! (chuckling) Is that what Daisy does?

    LESLIE: Yeah, a little bit. They like it.

    TOM: (chuckling) Well, we hope that helps you out.

    You know, some talk radio shows think that you need to pay to download their broadcast but we don’t. Our podcasts are always free, just like our radio show. In fact, you can help yourself to our entire library of podcasts available at MoneyPit.com. And if you’re looking for something, you can even look it up in the transcripts and once you find it, you can download the show. It’s all free at MoneyPit.com.

    LESLIE: And if you want further explanation or just some more information about something you’ve heard on the radio show or just something that’s going on at your house, you can actually call in – as if you didn’t know – you can call in your question right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. One caller we’re going to choose this hour is going to win a Master Lock gift pack complete with a big, red bow. It’s worth $115. It’s got a luggage lock, a cargo kit, a contractor-grade padlock and a combination lock and a Night Watch deadbolt, which is a great safety feature for the house.

    TOM: The Master Lock Night Watch deadbolt is the only deadbolt designed to prevent an intruder from entering your home even if they have your key. It fits all kinds of doors. It replaces any brand of deadbolt and can be installed in just about 15 minutes. So, call in your home improvement question now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Sheila’s fridge has issues in Florida. Hopefully we can straighten them out. What’s going on?

    SHEILA: On (ph) my refrigerator, the freezer part is like – it won’t even freeze my ice trays. So I don’t know what’s wrong with it. It’s like – I don’t know. Anything I put up there it doesn’t freeze.

    LESLIE: How old is this refrigerator freezer?

    SHEILA: It’s not that old. It’s probably like two years.

    TOM: And so, it just won’t freeze the ice or it won’t freeze anything?

    SHEILA: It won’t freeze nothing.

    TOM: Hmm, OK.

    LESLIE: And how is the fridge side?

    SHEILA: I would put bacon up there and within two days it’s still not frozen. Nothing’s freezing.

    TOM: OK. And you’ve checked the thermostat?

    SHEILA: Yes.

    TOM: It sounds like it may have a leak in the refrigerant line. If it’s not cooling enough, you may be losing a refrigerant and that could be either a repair or replacement issue …

    LESLIE: Did it ever freeze or did it just …

    SHEILA: Oh yeah, it did when I – like when I first bought it I mean it froze.

    TOM: You probably have a leak in the refrigerant. You’re going to have to have a refrigerator repairman check it and check the refrigerant level and make sure that it is pressurized. Because if you get a small leak it could take some time and that refrigerant could leak out. And if that’s the case, it’s just not going to get cold enough.

    The other thing that could wrong is the compressor but if you’ve got some temperature it’s probably not it. It’s probably more in the cycle of the refrigerant.

    LESLIE: Well, even if you wanted to sort of self-diagnose, there’s a great website called RepairClinic.com. You can put in the type of refrigerator that you have and it’ll give you a cue of sort of questions to, say, that’ll lead you to like what’s going wrong with this. And you say, ‘Freezer does not work’ and it can kind of recommend you perhaps parts that might be done, that need to be replaced or certain items. It’ll help you, you know, sort of establish what might be going on and see if you can’t fix it on your own.

    Nothing’s nicer than relaxing by a cozy fire, which David in Iowa wants to do. And how can we help you do that?

    DAVID: Well, what I’d like to know – I have a townhouse and we have a Preway zero clearance fireplace in here. And we’ve had some problems with it and like to know what’s the best way to replace it and keep the cost down as low as possible.

    TOM: What kinds of problems are you having?

    DAVID: Well, just this last fall – this is about 18 years old now we’ve had this. And we built (inaudible) this fall – a fire this fall and we had some strange odor coming out. It smelled like it was kind of getting hot. Funny smell. And I had it – I’ve had it cleaned and I have it cleaned periodically with a chimney sweep. And they didn’t find anything like a small hole or we’re having some problems with, you know, rust or something like that. And you know, we’re just looking like what do we need to do with this and try to replace it but I don’t want to have (inaudible).

    TOM: Well, you know, you may have come to the end of the useful life on that. Do you have gas in this house?

    DAVID: Yes, we do.

    TOM: Because the most efficient fireplace today would be a direct vent gas fireplace. If you use a standard fireplace, whenever you use that fireplace you’re basically using all of the combustion air inside your house and it would be air that you paid to heat. It’s getting sucked up through the fireplace and sent outside.

    You know, I saw a new, very high tech fireplace at the remodelers’ show this year in October that I was very impressed with. And it was made by Rinnai. You may know Rinnai because they’re the world’s largest manufacturer of gas appliances and they’re best known for their tankless water heaters, which are – which are very efficient.

    DAVID: Right, right.

    TOM: But now they have combustion – sealed combustion gas fireplaces that have a seven stage gas burner, which is pretty cool because it basically operates off of a thermostat and only delivers as much heat as the thermostat calls for. And they’re very, very efficient. They cost about $4,000 but they’re completely sort of a package deal. They’re zero clearance. They’d probably fit in pretty much the same space. You’d have to have a pro install it. Because it’s zero – because it’s direct vent, you probably don’t even have to go up through the chimney or through the vent pipe all the way to the roof. You can go through an exterior wall, which is – if there’s one to the back of it.

    But I thought that it was really well done, very high efficient. The burner on it – I was looking at it. It looks much like a condensing furnace, which is the 90-plus efficient furnaces that are used to heat homes.

    DAVID: With a fireplace like I’ve got now, would it – could (inaudible) be put in that be as efficient or not?

    TOM: It’ll be more efficient.

    DAVID: OK.

    TOM: It’ll be far more efficient because it sounds to me like you have a standard wood burning zero clearance fireplace right now, which means every time you light that it takes the heat from the house and uses it as the combustion air.

    DAVID: Well, it does have – does have an outside exit that draws in cold air from the outside.

    TOM: Well, that will help. That definitely helps. But the sealed combustion direct vent units are the most efficient gas fireplaces out there.

    DAVID: They work with a fan that puts the heat (inaudible)?

    TOM: Yes, they do. Yep. And they have a thermostat that controls them. So you basically set it and then walk away.

    DAVID: Thank you very much.

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

    LESLIE: Rob in Illinois, you’re next on The Money Pit. What can we do for you?

    ROB: I have an old house built in 1952. It has radiant heat with upper half-inch flexible copper tubes all over the inside of the walls and inside the concrete floors.

    TOM: OK.

    ROB: And I want to do some remodeling that involves knocking out some windows, putting in bigger ones maybe, moving some doors or making sliding glass doors where there’s a window now.

    TOM: OK.

    ROB: Concerned about where these copper lines might be in the walls. The question is, is there a service that can come out and detect these somehow and plot for me where they are in my whole house before I start tearing things apart?

    TOM: A couple of things come to mind. First of all, radiant pipes in the wall would only be plumbing lines that are supplying upstairs zones. The plumbing would be in the floor, which is where the heat would come through, and then it would run through the walls upstairs. So I don’t imagine there’s a lot of them in the walls. To find plumbing pipes as well as electrical pipes, some of the more sophisticated stud sensors that are available today …

    LESLIE: Will seek out electrical.

    TOM: And pipes. And metal pipes.

    ROB: OK.

    TOM: So the better stud sensors today can sort of reach into the wall, so to speak, and actually see those pipes. The other way to do it, if you were convinced that there were heating pipes in the walls more than just supplying upstairs and downstairs, would be to get somebody in with an infrared camera. An energy evaluator would have an infrared camera and you can actually see the warm parts of the walls with an infrared camera. You’d see exactly where those pipes were.

    ROB: Are you talking about the services like utilities provide when they come out for free and tell you where leaks are around (inaudible)?

    TOM: Exactly.

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    TOM: Yep, exactly.

    LESLIE: What is that? An energy audit?

    TOM: Yeah. So those are a couple of ways to do it.

    By the way, radiant heat is fabulous. I mean it’s a great, great system. It’s nice to have that warm, toasty floor.

    Alright, well good luck with the project.

    LESLIE: Well, installing energy efficient replacement windows, it’s a great way to save money and energy. But you might be wondering exactly what an install involves.

    TOM: Well, if you’re confused or concerned, don’t worry. There’s lots of home owners that feel the same way according to our next guest. We’re going to talk to a window installation expert on what you can do before the crew shows up.

    (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: Welcome back to 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.
    Now, sometimes we talk about small projects on The Money Pit. Sometimes we talk about big projects. And you know what? Usually we like to talk about how to make big projects easy for you. We’ve got a guest standing by that can help you do just that when it comes to windows.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and windows can be a big project or a small project. And you’ve heard us say it before here at The Money Pit that installing energy efficient replacement windows can save you big bucks on your heating and your cooling costs. But what exactly does window replacement involve? Well, many homeowners are confused and concerned about what to expect during the actual install.

    TOM: The folks at Simonton Windows have heard it all from homeowners asking if birds or animals will be able to scoot in their windows while they’re being replaced or wondering whether or not they should turn up the AC so the installers will stay cool. Now that’s a …

    LESLIE: And that’s very considerate.

    TOM: (chuckling) That’s a very considerate homeowner right there.

    Well, there are some guidelines that you can follow that will make the installer’s job go more smoothly and hence, your project more successful. Here to tell us all about it is Bill Lazor, the senior brand manager for Simonton Windows.

    Hey Bill, welcome to the program.

    BILL: Tom, Leslie, thanks for having me and Simonton Windows on your show.

    TOM: Our pleasure.

    LESLIE: So they really think Swiss cheese house, birds flying through the windows?

    BILL: You’d be surprised the comments we get. Yes. If the homeowners have never gone through this particular remodeling project, there’s all kinds of questions that come to their mind and that is one of them.

    TOM: Well, I think education is so important when it comes to a big project like this, Bill. So what’s some of the things that the homeowners need to be aware of before they engage a window contractor and everyone comes to the house and starts this project? What’s the first thing that a homeowner can do to make it go smoothly?

    BILL: Well, I think in any relationship that you have – especially with a remodeler – communication is the key. So keep in mind that you’re going to have a team of people in your house, moving to and fro both inside and outside. So do some common sense kind of things. You know, give them plenty of space to work. You know, remove the window treatments, clean areas out around; put your breakables and valuable things away so that they don’t accidentally get knocked over. Just be courteous and give them space to work. That would be the initial thing to do.

    LESLIE: Well, you’re saying communication is key. Do you recommend ever to consumers to sort of back it up in writing; even all the logistics as far as you know, will you clean up and take the stuff? Or can you sort of take folks on their word?

    BILL: In this – in this society, it always pays to cover your bets in everything. I would certainly double-check the paperwork against the windows that you get when you get your order in to make sure you got what you paid for. And everything that you can put in a contract up front makes it that much easier for you and the contractor or installer when it comes time to question it. So is cleanup part of the deal or is it not part of the deal? Most contractors and installers will certainly take your windows away. But you know, unless it’s specified in the contract, that may not occur. So it would be wise to do that up front and protect yourself.

    TOM: Bill, let’s talk about the process of installing a replacement window. I think that many consumers, when they think of window replacement, envision that the siding has to be removed from the house, the walls have to be taken down and it’s really a very disruptive project. But the technology employed by companies like Simonton makes this actually a lot simpler. Can you talk about how the windows are constructed and built to fit right inside existing openings?

    BILL: Well, today’s technology – we certainly have the ability with our vinyl window replacement products to custom size every one of your windows so that it fits exactly inside the hole in your house. That doesn’t mean that there might not be a piece of siding or two taken down to accommodate some extra trim or some finish material. But with the way we measure and have today’s technology with vinyl, we can certainly custom build every window that goes inside your home.

    TOM: Yeah, custom is almost a misnomer today because custom is the norm. I mean it’s almost …

    BILL: That’s true. Especially for remodeling and retrofit projects.

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah. I mean the standard sizes are really aimed toward new construction …

    BILL: That’s correct.

    TOM: … where you have the ease – it’s [certainly easy] (ph) to change an opening when it’s in that stage.

    Well, let’s talk about the things that you might want to get out of the way. We talked about furniture and stuff like this. I think it’s also a good idea to get, you know, the kids and the pets separated from the – from the contractors and kind of secure and lock down the house before they get started.

    BILL: Send them over to your aunt’s and uncle’s house. Give them something to do during the day. And by the way, probably get the husband out of the way, too. (inaudible) (laughter)

    LESLIE: I was going to say. If you’ve got somebody …

    BILL: Give him an assignment and get him out of the way …

    TOM: Yeah.

    BILL: … and let the contractors and the installers go ahead and do their work.

    TOM: It’s like …

    LESLIE: I was going to say if you’ve got somebody who’s really interested in home improvement, get them out.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Because we recently had a little bit of work done on our bath and I was fighting myself to not be up there every five minutes because I’m like, ‘Hmm, I want to see what’s going on. I want to know how it’s going.’ But you need to step away.

    TOM: It’s like we charge you this much for the job; we charge you extra if you help. (chuckling)

    BILL: Exactly. But there’s another consideration, too, and that’s simply safety of both the people who may be interested …

    TOM: Sure.

    BILL: … in watching or – and the installers and contractors themselves. So, it’s best to let the professionals do their work and stand clear.

    TOM: What about – what about the weather? I mean is it OK to start a project if you don’t have a solid eight hours of clear weather? Can you do these jobs in smaller increments?

    BILL: Oh, absolutely you can and that’s something else that you should probably detail in your contract up front. Many contractors are perfectly suited to work both inside and outside during wet or stormy weather, but it may not be conducive to your house and you may want to get that spelled out in your contract before any actual work begins. However, you know, you’re not going to have a whole house full of windows that are exposed to the weather. People are going to come in and replace one or two at a time in an orderly and strict fashion, so …

    LESLIE: It’s not willy-nilly windowless home hour.

    BILL: That’s correct. (chuckling)

    TOM: And of course, this is a great time to think about putting in energy efficient replacement windows because the energy tax credit program gives you a cash back bonus, so to speak, for doing that job right now.

    BILL: Yeah, I believe that does run out this year and that’s a very good point. If you’re going to spend the amount of effort to investigate what windows you need and upgrade your house, certainly look for an Energy Star compliant window. Take a look at vinyl windows that are virtually maintenance free. And you have the opportunity to beautify and upgrade your home, too, from an energy standpoint.

    TOM: Good advice.

    LESLIE: Bill, before we let you go, how often should folks think about replacing their windows?

    BILL: You know, people move into a new home and the windows are the last thing they look at. But if you – after about a couple of decades, most people move within probably ten years now. But the lifetime of an average window is probably about 20 years. And then you start to notice leaks and moisture around the window. You start to notice that it doesn’t operate nearly as well. So even though the IG unit will probably last a little bit longer, you’re probably starting to get to the threshold of good performance around a unit. So about two decades.

    TOM: Bill Lazor from Simonton Windows, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    If you want more information or for a free homeowner guide to replacing windows, you can call them at 1-800-SIMONTON or log onto their website at Simonton.com.

    LESLIE: Alright, folks. Are you one bulb short of a string of lights? We’re not saying you’re silly but we know what’s going on. We’re going to tell you how to fix broken Christmas lights. You know how angry they make you. And we’re going to help bring that twinkle back to your holiday decorations next.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Roto-Rooter, for all your plumbing and drain cleaning needs. Whether it’s a small job or a big repair, request the experts from Roto-Rooter. That’s the name and away go troubles down the drain. Call 1-800-GET-ROTO or visit Roto-Rooter.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: OK, so you pulled out the lights. They worked fine last year and now they’re busted. Well, if you have a broken set of lights, you might be tempted to replace them because they’re often so inexpensive. But you can avoid making a trip to the store during that time of year when you’re already strapped for cash because you’re buying so many presents by checking the lights.

    LESLIE: And not to mention parking.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, to find the missing or broken or burned out bulbs, you can check the strand from end to end by looking for visible damage or blackness.

    LESLIE: Alright. To find a loose bulb, you can tap each bulb to see which one flickers or causes the strand to flicker or you can unplug and check the wire at the base as well as the bulb for any damage. If it’s damaged, replace it; otherwise, plug that light back in securely. To find and replace a bulb and a string of lights that’s not lighting up at all, use a bulb that you know that works already and plug it into the first socket on the strand then go down the line. Replace each bulb with the one that you know works from the previous socket until the whole strand lights up. Takes a little persistence but it’s going to do the trick.

    TOM: Well, not only do we save you money here on The Money Pit; we also like to give you tips to make you safe. So, in our next e-newsletter, we’re going to give you three ways to make sure your holiday lights are not a fire hazard. You know, fires can ruin the holiday plans of thousands of people every year or worse. So we’ll tell you how to make sure your decorations are safe. If you don’t have the newsletter, why not? Sign up. It’s free at MoneyPit.com. And while you’re there, e-mail us your home improvement or home repair question.

    LESLIE: Or you can call in your question right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. Somebody is always standing by. And one caller we’re going to choose this hour is going to win a prize that’s going to keep you and your family safe and sound all year long. It’s a Master Lock gift pack. It’s worth $115. It’s a pretty big prize. It’s going to include a luggage lock, a cargo kit, a contractor-grade padlock, a combination lock and a Night Watch deadbolt. And the Master Lock Night Watch, it’s the only deadbolt that’s designed to prevent an intruder from entering your home even if they have the key. So it’s a great prize. It’s going to keep you and your family safe. It’s easy to install. If you call in your home improvement or your home repair question right now, you could be the winner.

    TOM: The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Sandra in West Virginia listens on WCHS. What can we do for you in your house?

    SANDRA: Yes, I am curious to find out what type of paint you use to repaint a countertop.

    LESLIE: What is your countertop made out of?

    SANDRA: Formica.

    LESLIE: Why do you want to paint it?

    SANDRA: Because it’s ugly.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Has it already been painted or is it something that you want to do fresh on it?

    SANDRA: Something I want to do decorative to improve the color in my kitchen.

    TOM: Well, the answer is no kind of paint. (laughing)

    LESLIE: Yeah, I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t paint it. There are a ton of other options you can do. You can easily re-laminate an already laminated countertop. There are so many different – there’s Lamin-Art; there’s Wilsonart; a whole bunch of different companies that make laminates. And it comes in so many different finishes, choices. I mean each company has about 100 different choices. And what you do is you would just use a laminate cutter to cut these to the appropriate size and then use a contact cement and you could adhere it right to the top of your existing laminate countertop. So for a few dollars, you’re going to get something that’s very, very durable; brand spanking new; and easy to do on your own. You just have to be careful about adhesion. You want to make sure it’s properly lined up before you would stick it down to the old one. Or you could tile on top of that but I wouldn’t paint.

    SANDRA: Oh, well wonderful.

    Well Leslie, I did want to tell you, my husband absolutely loves you.

    LESLIE: Oh, why thank you.

    TOM: (chuckling) That’s great.

    LESLIE: Tell him I say hello.

    SANDRA: Oh, I certainly will. He’s so jealous of me already.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Thanks, Sandra.

    SANDRA: Thank you, have a good day.

    TOM: Sandra, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Michael in Alabama’s having some toilet issues. It’s just not flushing? Tell us what happens.

    MICHAEL: Well, it’s like sometimes I have to flush it more than once to get everything out of the bowl.

    TOM: How old is the toilet, Michael?

    MICHAEL: The house is 20 years old.

    TOM: So it’s probably not a low-flow toilet.

    MICHAEL: No, I don’t think so.

    TOM: Well, there must be an obstruction somewhere. Is it only happening with this toilet or is it happening with all the toilets in the house or you just have one?

    MICHAEL: I have two and mainly (ph) it happens with one.

    TOM: Well, OK. A couple of things.

    MICHAEL: We have really small children, so …

    TOM: OK. So do you think there’s a chance they could’ve flushed something down there?

    MICHAEL: Either that or put a bunch in and then tried to flush it.

    TOM: Well, if it’s a low-flow toilet, then the design of it is such that sometimes that happens. If there’s an obstruction, the only way you’re going to get to it is if you snake it out. Now, with a toilet, the obstructions can be in one of two places. It could be in the built-in trap, which is accessible if you take the toilet off the base. Or it can be in the line itself. If you run water through the – is this – this toilet that flushes slowly, is it in the same bathroom with a sink and a tub?

    MICHAEL: Yes.

    TOM: Do you have any slowness in the sink or the tub when they drain?

    MICHAEL: No.

    TOM: Because it’s going to be going to the same drain itself. Then I would it’s more likely to be in the toilet itself and you might want to do a little investigation here and pull it off the base and take a look. It’s not that hard to do. You turn the water off, disconnect the water line, move the toilet bolts and, of course, take the lid off so it doesn’t fall off. And then flush it so it drains all the water and then tilt it up and you can look right under it into the trap of the toilet itself and see if maybe one of your kids threw something down there. I actually had that happen to me and it was a little tricky to diagnose but once we found it, it was all set.

    MICHAEL: (children talking in background) OK, so the best way to do it is just take it all apart and then look in the trap itself?

    TOM: Yeah, exactly.

    LESLIE: And there’s the kid saying, ‘I shoved my toy telephone down there.’

    TOM: (chuckling) ‘Dad, I tried to tell you that.’ (chuckling)

    LESLIE: ‘Dad, I was telling you.’

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

    LESLIE: Up next, we’re going to reach into our Money Pit e-mail bag to answer a listener’s dilemma about her noisy heating system. Why are her ducts clanging and pinging? We’re going to tell her, next.

    TOM: Sounds like the ducts have the holiday spirit.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Too much eggnog for them. (chuckling)

    (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: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, making good homes better. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: So you can call in your home improvement question to 1-888-MONEY-PIT or you can jump on our website at MoneyPit.com, click on Ask Tom and Leslie. Lots of you do every single week. We get back to as many people as we can. And now we’re going to tackle some of those e-mails in today’s edition of the e-mail bag.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well our first one is from Nancy in Prior Lake, Minnesota who writes: ‘When our furnace turns off, it begins a series of cooling off – I assume – that causes the ductwork to ping and clang. It’s …’ Oh, basically it’s making noise and it’s annoying her.

    TOM: That’s right.

    LESLIE: ‘What could this be? Loose duct connections? And how do you trace and fix a problem like that?’

    TOM: Actually, it has a word; it’s called oilcanning.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) ‘Oil can!’

    TOM: You know when you take a soda can and you sort of bend the – or an oil – used to be oil cans – but when you take a soda can and sort of bend the end in and sort of ping it back out?

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: Basically what’s happening is the metal is expanding and contracting. And it happens for two reasons. It happens because of the heating and cooling. And it also happens because the ducts are either pressurized or depressurized because think about it; when you turn the blower on, the ducts are pressurized with all this air pressure and if there’s any weakness, they’re going to sort of pop out or sort of pillow out. And then what happens when the blower goes off, they snap back.

    Now, the way that’s corrected – have you ever seen on the side of metal ducts, it looks like they’ve been crimped in like an X pattern.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: It sort of puts like a diamond pattern …

    LESLIE: It’s almost like baffled or …

    TOM: Yeah, that’s right. And what that does, Leslie, is it makes the duct stronger. It reinforces it structurally.

    LESLIE: Can that be done to ductwork that you already have?

    TOM: No. No. It can’t but there are other tricks of the trade. What you can do is you can take a piece of angle iron or a piece of bent galvanized metal – and a duct installer can do this. They can make like a bar and actually screw it to the side of the duct to kind of give it some rigidity if they can identify exactly where that is.

    LESLIE: But that has to be done in those areas where it’s sucking itself in and popping itself out.

    TOM: Yeah, usually it’s close to the …

    LESLIE: So you’ve got to observe it.

    TOM: It’s usually close to the furnace. Because that’s where the pressure seems to be the worst. And you know, when it goes up into the walls, it generally is not an issue. It’s right – usually right near the furnace itself. So you’ve got to identify where that is and then that will solve the problem.

    LESLIE: Alright, this one’s from Timo (sp) in Lansing, Michigan who writes: ‘My one-car garage is slanted. As you face it, the left baseboard is rotted and I think this is the reason for the slant. How do I fix it?’

    TOM: Hmm. Well, it’s probably not the reason for the slant. It’s probably an effect of the slant because probably what’s happening Timo (sp) is the water that’s getting – probably dripping off the car and just washing into the door. It’s probably running down that slab and striking that baseboard on the side and that’s what’s causing it to rot out. So it’s not causing it but it’s probably the effect of it.

    Now, the cement slab is not something to worry tremendously about. It’s usually not connected to your foundation. Very unusual to have a [monolith of pour] (ph) where it would be. So really, what happens is they build a foundation; they smooth out the ground; tamp it down, hopefully; then the pour the slab. But nine out of ten times, they don’t tamp it down correctly or they don’t – maybe they have some fill in there that’s organic – like tree trunks that rot out. And then what happens is that gets sort of rotted away and then the slab settles because of all the action on top of it and that’s why it slants. So, it’s mostly visual. Not structural. And the rotted wood, well, you’ve just got to replace it.

    LESLIE: Alright, Timo (sp). Not such a terrible thing. Add that to your to-do list.

    TOM: OK, up next. Do you need a facelift underfoot? Leslie has the lowdown on how to add new life to your carpets in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Well, are your wall-to-wall carpets looking a bit like a sharpei? (laughter) You know, that super duper wrinkly dog. You know what I’m talking about. Well, loose or wrinkled carpets can be remedied with something called restretching and that’s going to tighten the material and remove all those wrinkles which, you know, are dangerous because those areas that are bunched up, of the carpet, they can be huge tripping hazards. You could get your foot stuck on them. You can trip over them. Just not a good idea. And the restretching is a technique that’s going to prolong a carpet’s life because loose areas tend to speed up the wear and tear that the carpet takes. So get it nice and tight and enjoy that carpet all over again.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Thank you so much for stopping by. 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 2006 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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