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Home Improvement Tips & Advice

  • Transcript

    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete

    (NOTE: Timestamps below correspond to the running time of the downloadable audio file of this show. Text represents a professional transcriptionist’s understanding of what was said. No guarantee of accuracy is expressed or implied. ‘Ph’ in parentheses indicates the phonetic or best guess of the actual spoken word.)


    (promo/theme song)

    TOM: Coast to coast and floorboards to shingles. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Making good homes better at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Call us right now with your home improvement questions. Call us with your do-it-yourself dilemmas. You need a decorating tip? You need a designer idea? Call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. It’s home repair because we care. We’re like your handy neighbors (Leslie chuckles), but we know better than to lend you our power tools.

    But we will give you a power tool if you call because we’re giving away a Ryobi One+ 18-volt …

    LESLIE: We love prizes.

    TOM: … planer this hour. If you call us at 888-MONEY-PIT you could just win that.

    Hey, coming up today we have got a great show in store for you. First up, do you know what part of your house is the most vulnerable to outside leaks? Well, it’s your windows and doors. We’re going to teach you how to keep them water tight for the long haul.

    LESLIE: Also, space heaters. They can be a great way to turn down your thermostat and save some of those very valuable energy dollars. But they’re also a major cause of fire-related deaths. We’re going to cover the most common blunders that folks make when using a space heater in just a bit.

    TOM: And because our motto is ‘You can never have too many power tools’ we’re giving away that Ryobi One+ hand planer worth 60 bucks. Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You must be willing to come on the air and ask your home improvement question.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Bob listens in on WABC in Fairfield, New Jersey. How can we help you today?

    BOB: Well, I am considering putting in a tankless water heater.


    BOB: And I’ve looked into it and I’ve gotten some negative feedback from a plumber. He said he wouldn’t trust it. He would think that a lot of problems. An architect told me that they’re subject to breakdown. But I don’t know, you know, if it’s when they first came out or if they’ve improved them. And they said that they don’t give you enough demand water. But from what I could read from the manufacturers is different models are rated for different BTU and different usage.

    TOM: You know, with all due respect to your plumber, sometimes it takes a while for old dogs to learn new tricks. And tankless water heaters are really the wave of the future. They work extremely well. They’re extremely energy efficient. But they have to be properly installed.

    I’ll give you a very common example of a place where plumbers improperly install tankless water heaters. First of all, do you have gas in your house?

    BOB: Yes, I do.

    TOM: Alright, because they don’t run well on electric. If you have gas in your house, the way that plumbers have been hooking up gas water heaters since the beginning of time of gas water heaters is to use one size of gas heating pipe. Now, with a tankless water heater you need a larger gas pipe. You don’t use more gas but you use a larger volume of gas for a shorter period of time. And if they take the existing gas line and don’t make it bigger, what happens is the tankless water heater is starved for gas …

    LESLIE: So it’s not properly heating the water.

    TOM: So as long as the gas line is correctly sized and the water heater is correctly installed, I think a tankless water heater is a great idea.

    BOB: Does that mean they have to re-pipe the whole gas line or just from where it connects to the …

    TOM: Usually they have to re-pipe it from where it connects to the next intersection with your main gas line. So it’s not running new pipe line throughout the whole house but generally just a section of pipe that has to be upgraded so that you’re getting the right volume of gas in there.

    There is a website called ForeverHotWater.com.

    BOB: Yeah, I checked that. Rinnai.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a good one. The Rinnai company does a good job there. And there are some sizing guides there that will tell you what size you need for your particular needs.

    But I do think that a water heater – a tankless water heater – is a really good idea. It’s a very green idea, too. It’s a very energy efficient idea. And it gives you a lot of flexibility. I mean one of the things that I really liked about some of these tankless water heaters, I have children and you can actually have a remote control panel for your water heater. So you can dial down the temperature of the water. Say if the small kids go up to take a bath you don’t have to worry about them scalding themselves. There’s just a lot of flexibility with tankless water heaters that you get besides being very energy efficient.

    So go forward with that project and maybe you can suggest that your plumber just gets a little more education on it because they do work well if they are correctly installed.

    1-888-MONEY-PIT is the telephone number. Call us now with your home improvement question.

    LESLIE: Winifred in New Mexico, you are on The Money Pit. What can we do for you?

    WINIFRED: Yeah, I have a problem with a commode in my bathroom. It’s black and I’ve noticed a heavy, white buildup around the top of the water (inaudible). Wonder if you can help me get rid of that.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a mineral deposit, Winifred. And you can get rid of that. It’s simply a matter of cleaning it. There’s a product out there that works well. It’s called CLR. It stands for calcium, lime, rust. And it’s a good cleaner and it breaks down those minerals and will really restore it back to the original porcelain.

    LESLIE: Would you pour it in there or would you add it to the toilet brush and scrub with it or would you flush it down?

    TOM: What I would do is I would put some in the toilet water and I would, you know, sort of scrub it around with a toilet brush; let it sit for a while. And it’ll melt all those mineral salts away.

    WINIFRED: Alright, I do appreciate that.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Winifred. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Calling from New York, New York we’ve got Robert. How can we help?

    ROBERT: Yeah, hi. I was wondering if you could give me some hints of what to do for a problem I’m having in my building here; an apartment that I have in a building in New York City. It’s an old – 80-year-old – multiple dwelling building. I face the Hudson River way up in the northern tip of Manhattan.

    LESLIE: Ooh, freezing.

    ROBERT: Yeah.

    LESLIE: Freezing winds.

    ROBERT: And I got tremendous westerly winds for the last 30 years or so. And basically, about six to eight years ago they replaced the windows with these metal type, New York City-type replacement windows …

    TOM: Right.

    ROBERT: … that I haven’t ever seen anywhere else other than New York. (Tom laughs) I’m sure you’re familiar with. Double-pane supposedly.

    TOM: OK.

    ROBERT: Basically, the air still comes through. So what I have done up to this point after so many years, I have built a polyethylene frame enclosure that I’ve put against inside. I have Venetian blinds. I have curtains. I have shades.

    LESLIE: Robert, do you feel the draft sort of around where the sash meets the track? Or is it coming through the glass?

    ROBERT: It looks like it’s coming from the side where the sash meets the side of the actual – you know, where the …

    LESLIE: In the tracking system.

    ROBERT: I believe it’s probably the weight wells that are on the side weren’t filled (ph) in, you know, properly. Or they should have been (inaudible).

    TOM: OK, Robert. There’s another thing that you can do here. All of the things that you mention, of course, are helping. But since this seems to be in the areas where the window slides up and down, you can actually caulk your windows shut.

    LESLIE: Not with your average caulk.

    TOM: Right. But not with regular caulk. There are a number of manufacturers that make a temporary caulk. One of them is called Seal ‘N Peel and the way it works is …

    LESLIE: And that’s from DAP.

    TOM: That’s from DAP. You basically caulk the window shut. So you caulk those gaps around those tracks. And then after the caulk dries, in the spring it can be simply peeled right off. It’s kind of like that gooey stuff when you get a brand new credit card. It’s like stuck to the paper. It has that sort of texture to it. And you grab it and it peels the whole thing right off. It’s pretty cool stuff. It doesn’t damage the windows.

    The only thing I have to caution – are you on an upper floor?

    ROBERT: Yeah, top floor.

    TOM: Well, if you do this on a house that has to have emergency egress you’re basically caulking your window shut. But you’re not going to need that on the upper floor so go ahead and caulk them shut with the Seal ‘N Peel or a product like that. You can seal them up in the fall then you can peel it off and operate the windows like nothing ever happened in the spring.

    LESLIE: And you know, Robert, my mom’s on the east side of Manhattan, right on the East River. And I turned her on to it and now everybody in her building has sealed their windows shut. And it works.

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

    LESLIE: In New York, New York you can find The Money Pit on WABC like Joe does. How can we help?

    JOE: Is there a transparent paint with an r value and if so, what is the name of the manufacturer?

    TOM: There is a – there’s a paint called Radiance that is a low-e paint. And – it’s not a transparent paint. It’s basically a regular paint. But it has a low-e factor to it. These low-e coatings are starting to gain popularity. The concept is that if you put it on your walls it helps keep the heat inside the room that’s being heated. And that one’s been out for a long time. And again, it’s called Radiance.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm. R paint.

    JOE: Is there a paint that can endure, for many years, below the water line; as in a commode.

    LESLIE: To paint the inside of the toilet tank?

    TOM: You want to paint the inside of a toilet tank? Well, an epoxy paint would work. Like a garage floor paint is an epoxy paint and there are others. And also a marine paint would probably work as well.

    Can I ask why you want to paint the inside of your toilet tank?

    JOE: Because part of the porcelain on the inside of the commode has worn away.

    TOM: Really? I’ve never seen worn away porcelain. So you want to build it up?

    JOE: Yes, sir.

    TOM: Well, I’ll tell you, what I have used to repair toilet tanks that have cracked is a two-part epoxy. So I would mix the epoxy up and use that to patch the area that’s worn away. I wouldn’t use a paint.

    JOE: Oh, I see. OK. I thank you very, very kindly for your help.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, Money Pit listeners. Do you have the winter blues? Well then it’s time to freshen up your house because now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’re always here at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, moisture. It is the biggest enemy of your home’s wall system. That’s why you need to keep it waterproofed; especially in those very high risk areas. Which parts of the wall are at risk and how do you keep them dry? We’re going to tell you after this.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Dens Armor Plus, the revolutionary paperless drywall from Georgia-Pacific.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. 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. Well you know, we’re giving away a Ryobi One+ hand planer. It’s worth $60. It’s got 18 volts of power. And once you have a Ryobi One+ tool – any one of them – you can build on your tool arsenal because all of the batteries are completely interchangeable. This is a great tool all in one.

    TOM: If you want to win it you’ve got to call 1-888-MONEY-PIT and be willing to come on the air and ask your home improvement question.

    Alright, we were talking about waterproofing the weak link in your house. It is the weakest link. (Leslie chuckles) It’s your windows and your doors. You know, proper waterproofing and window flashing are the best ways to make sure your home construction and remodeling projects are top notch and last a long time. Because if the water gets in the mold follows, folks. And the corners of windows and doors are the most vulnerable points of the wall system and they are rarely, if ever, flashed correctly.

    LESLIE: Flashing these areas, it’s very difficult because you’re dealing with a 90-degree angle and sometimes it’s just plain hard to get to; especially if you’re working with an inflexible or metal flashing. Really tough to get in there and do it right.

    There are better choices on the market. You might not be aware of them. You can actually find, right now, flexible and self-adhering rubberized flashings. The one we like best for the job is a product from Grace and it’s called VYCORners. These are going to be prefabricated plastic corners that are going to totally seal your window at its most vulnerable areas. All it takes is a few staples to secure them. They’re designed to fit any window or door; so you don’t have to do any guesswork. Plus, once you install them with a premium peel and stick membrane you’re going to get a durable water and air tight bond.

    If you want some more information about weatherproofing, you can visit www.GraceAtHome.com. It’s a great website. Lots of information.

    TOM: Or you can call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    Wendy in Maui, Hawaii. Aloha. How can we help you?

    WENDY: Four years ago we put in a berber carpet in our new home. It’s a single dwelling on a slab. And we have two large dogs and the carpet is almost ready to be replaced. (Leslie chuckles) What we would like to do is we would like to know about some treatment for the slab; other than just throwing something on top of it. Like (inaudible). I heard that there’s a treatment or two that you can put to make it look like marble.

    LESLIE: Instead of putting a carpeting.

    WENDY: Instead of a carpeting.

    TOM: Yeah, you know what? You’re probably referring to like an acid stain or something of that nature.

    WENDY: Yes. The people that put the carpet said it’s the nicest slab that they’ve seen. So we know that there’s a really nice slab underneath this carpet.

    LESLIE: Well, there are several different treatments you can do to concrete. There’s something called acid staining. There are kits available if you look online. But generally, because it’s a chemical reaction, you really want to make sure that the chemicals you’re using are going to react to your concrete in the right way. So it might make more sense to hire in a pro; because there are pros who come in and do acid staining. And they can create it to look as if it’s slate, marble. It can have variations in color; almost look like things are blending.

    There’s also something called polishing concrete which kind of has an industrial look to it but it can toned with different colors and it ends up being super duper shiny. Or it can have a matte finish to it. But it looks almost like there’s a thick resin on top of it, which looks great. We have a friend who has a loft space in the city and their concrete floor is highly polished and it’s beautiful.

    And there’s also something with concrete stamps; not pressing down stamps but it’s almost a sticker that goes over it and then a coating is sprayed on. And it can look like different tiles like brick; any different patterns. There’s great websites.

    WENDY: So it can look like a tile?

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah.

    TOM: Oh, it can look like lots of things. You know, I recently responded to a question on acid staining in my blog on AOL.com. And I found a website that really impressed me. It was called Modello Designs; M-o-d-e-l-l-o Designs. It’s ModelloDesign.com. And if you want to see what you can do with concrete – staining and stamping – check out that website. It’s absolutely amazing the patterns that these guys have created on concrete. And there’s a lot of advice on how to do it there and how to buy the materials that you need and so on. So check that out. Modello Design.com.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Mm-hmm. Another good resource is TheStampStore.com. They’ve got a lot of different things; same thing – acid stains, concrete additives, different stencils that you can put down on top of the concrete and then apply over it. There’s a lot of great options.

    WENDY: Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Listening on WABC we’ve got Liz in New York. What’s going on with the toilet at your house?

    LIZ: OK, I live in an older home and every once in a while after I flush the toilet it runs. And my – the box is – it’s a bigger toilet because the house is older. So, I want to know what is the best way to prevent this from happening in the future without having to replace the box.

    TOM: No, you don’t have – when you say the box you mean the toilet? You mean the toilet tank?

    LESLIE: The tank.

    LIZ: The toilet – I don’t know what you call it.

    TOM: (chuckling) The box. The toilet box. It’s the toilet tank.

    LESLIE: The thing I lean against.

    TOM: Yeah. (chuckling) You don’t have to replace the tank. Here’s one thing that’s good about toilets. They never, ever wear out. The physical toilet itself doesn’t wear out. What does wear out are the moving parts inside.

    LESLIE: Is this the flush valve or the chain that lifts up the flapper?

    LIZ: I think it’s – you know, like when I go to flush it the water doesn’t fill up because the bowl, I guess, or the float – is that what you call it? – doesn’t come down.

    TOM: There’s a very simple solution here, Liz. You have two valves inside your toilet. One’s a flush valve and one’s a fill valve. Both of those added together is not going to cost you more than about 15 bucks in parts to replace. Those valves will wear out from time to time. They’re fairly easy to replace. It’s probably one of the only do-it-yourself plumbing jobs I recommend people do.

    What you simply have to do is turn the water off to the toilet and once it’s off …

    LESLIE: And that’s the valve right outside the toilet, correct?

    TOM: Underneath the toilet. Yeah. Once it’s off, you can follow the directions on the box. Probably the most commonly available flush and fill valve is made by Fluidmaster. It fits almost every single toilet out there. Really not hard to do. Follow the instructions on the box. There’s also a good online video instruction at Fluidmaster.com. But this is a pretty straightforward home improvement project and it will quiet up that toilet, it’ll stop the ghost flushing and it’s going to save you a lot of water.

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

    LESLIE: Josie in Connecticut, you are on The Money Pit. What’s up?

    JOSIE: Hi. I need some information. I have an old-fashioned footed tub in a home that I’ve just bought.


    JOSIE: Excellent condition. I may have it reglazed just because I want to do that. However, the fixtures that come out of the tub for the hot and cold water and the water source are not there. I have three holes in that tub. Now, of course, I know they’re back in fashion now and I know you can get them. But this tub has the holes in the tub.

    LESLIE: So you have to get things that fit exactly.

    JOSIE: Exactly. And I’m just wondering are there any sources available or I’m going to be able to refit the tub. I hate to get rid of it. It’s a cast iron. It’s in beautiful condition.

    TOM: No, that would be a real shame. There absolutely are sources that can help you.

    LESLIE: That’s right, there are. There’s a great website. It’s called SignatureHardware.com – all one word. And if you go there, they have a ton of fixtures that are made specifically for claw foot tubs that get mounted into the tub itself. Because a lot of times the faucets are going directly into the wall and that’s not so with a claw foot. So you’ve got to make sure it’s the right type of hardware.

    JOSIE: Exactly. And that’s what I’ve been – you know, looking for and researching and finding. And this is an older tub.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    JOSIE: They did it differently in those days. So it’s in excellent condition and I do thank you for this information.

    TOM: You’re very welcome.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) You’re so welcome. Enjoy that nice, deep soak.

    JOSIE: Oh, listen. This is my retirement home and it’s truly a money pit. (Tom and Leslie chuckle) But it’ll be my joy to refurbish (ph) it. (laughing) Thank you.

    TOM: Well, now you’ll be retiring in a little extra comfort. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    Up next, it is the fire season. That’s right, folks. Heating your home; it’s the second leading cause of fires. We’re going to tell you what you can do to stay safe, next.

    (theme song)

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Making good homes better at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Call us about your home improvement question. Let us help solve your do-it-yourself dilemma.

    You know, it’s hard to believe but heating your home is the second leading cause of fires in this country. And that’s according to the National Fire Protection Association. And what’s interesting is that almost three-quarters of all fire deaths are the result of – guess what? – space heaters.

    LESLIE: Yeah, I guess a lot of people leave them on and leave the room. And it might seem like common sense but obviously folks out there are still ignoring or aren’t aware of safety precautions that you need to take during your home’s heating season. And here to tell us more about staying safe is Meri-K Appy, President of the Home Safety Council.

    Welcome and thank you so much for joining us.

    MERI-K: Well thank you for doing this important message.

    TOM: Meri-K, it would seem that with all the technology we have at our disposal today, that the space heaters would be getting that much better and that much safer. Are they getting safer or are consumers – regardless of how safe manufacturers make these with, you know, devices like trip sensors that shut them off if they knocked over – are consumers still doing silly things and causing injuries?

    MERI-K: Human error certainly contributes so much to home related injuries and deaths. I think manufacturers are responding by better design and the Home Safety Council absolutely applauds this. But there are still an awful lot of ways to make mistakes.

    I’m so glad you’re doing this message. In fact, our founding sponsors at Lowe’s and the Home Safety Council are teaming up to really focus attention on this.

    One of the big problems with space heaters – they need space. And because they’re so portable, it’s easy to pick them up and position them too close to something that can burn.

    LESLIE: Well, and it’s also easy to put them, say, under a desk where you might forget about them and step away for a while.

    MERI-K: Absolutely. Another big problem is when people are sleeping. If they leave them on when they fall asleep and they kick the covers off, this combustible material can fall on top of the heating unit and catch on fire.

    So things to keep in mind with space heaters: number one – you want them in good working condition. Look for the UL label on them to make sure they’ve been tested for safety; very importantly, keep them at least three feet away from anything that can burn. We like to include people and pets on that list; and turn them off if you go to sleep or leave the room.

    TOM: We’re talking to Meri-K Appy. She’s the President of the Home Safety Council.

    Meri-K, with the different types of space heaters that are out there, I mean you have – let’s see, you have kerosene; you have electric radiant ones where the coils heat up and you sort of feel the heat through the coils; you have the other types of electric radiators where they’re oil filled. Is there one type of space heater that perhaps is more safe; especially if you have children or pets?

    MERI-K: Well certainly, fixed protection is best. But that would mean maybe a wood stove or a fireplace can be alternate sources of heat. But those aren’t foolproof either. And …

    TOM: But what about the portables?

    MERI-K: Portables, you want to make sure, for example, that if you’re thinking about a kerosene heater that they’re legal in the area you live in. There are some places where they’re not legal. So you want to make sure you check your local regulations.

    But yes, some of the features you were describing earlier – the tip over devices, the ones that shut off if it tips over – those can really be advantageous as well. But I think supervision is so crucial here. You just want to make sure that if you’re using any kind of a heat source, there is an adult paying attention to it.

    LESLIE: What about the dangers – or are there dangers – associated with electric blankets? They’re so popular with people especially trying to save energy dollars. And now that it’s really winter across this country, people are really trying to stay warm. So any safety features when looking at an electric blanket?

    MERI-K: Any time you’re looking at any electrical device of any kind, again, you want to make sure that it’s in really top working order. If it’s older and maybe beginning to smell funny or it looks like the wiring is fraying at all, it’s time to throw that away. You want to make sure that the unit you choose has been tested by a testing laboratory such as UL and has the label of the testing laboratory right on it.

    TOM: We’re talking to Meri-K Appy. She’s the President of the Home Safety Council.

    Meri-K, you mentioned fireplaces before. What’s the most common way people are injured by fireplaces? How are those fires starting?

    MERI-K: A couple of concerns about fireplaces. One is that they’re not well protected. They don’t have, for example, a good sturdy fireplace screen so embers pop out and can start a fire that way. But another, more hidden way is people burn things in their fireplaces other than hard wood. You need good seasoned hard wood only in your fireplace. What happens is that there is stuff that’s created when your fires burn and it can cake the inside of your chimney.

    LESLIE: And that’s creosote.

    MERI-K: Creosote. And creosote can be really flammable. So every year you want somebody who is really professional – a chimney sweep and particularly one that’s been certified by the Chimney Safety Institute of America – to get in there, really look at your chimney, make sure there’s not any cracks or buildup of creosote. If they tell you that it needs to be cleaned, do that.

    TOM: I think that’s a very good point to make sure you use a certified chimney sweep because I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gotten calls on this program from folks who have been exposed to uncertified, unprofessional chimney sweeps that simply use the chimney inspection as an opportunity to sell repairs that are probably not needed. So it is important that you get a very carefully trained professional when you’re doing that type of inspection.

    MERI-K: And the service – that particular service trade – is not regulated. So you do have to look. A good chimney cleaning typically would run about $150. If somebody’s offering to clean your chimney for much less than that you should be suspicious.

    LESLIE: Meri-K, do you think it’s better to do the cleaning, you know – especially depending on how much you use the fireplace – better to do it at the beginning of the season or at the end as long as you do it annually?

    MERI-K: Well, as long as you do it annually you’ll probably be covered. And as long as you – if you’re burning your – a lot of fires during the year, doing it right after the season ends makes sure that it’ll be all set to go the very first time you use it the next year.

    TOM: Meri-K Appy from the Home Safety Council, thanks again for great information on how to stay safe.

    If you want more information, they’ve got a super website. It’s HomeSafetyCouncil.org.

    LESLIE: OK, Money Pit listeners. Do you want a little Tom and Leslie to go? Can’t get enough of us? I know I can’t get enough of Tom. (Tom chuckles) I’ve got to have him with me all the time.

    TOM: This is true. She calls me every time something goes wrong in her house. (chuckling)

    LESLIE: Any time. Any time. I’ve got Tom on speed dial. And you can too at 888-MONEY-PIT. You’ll get right to him.

    Well, if you want us on the go, you can check out MoneyPit.com for a free podcast. You can download any show from our extensive online archive. Just go to MoneyPit.com.

    TOM: You got a leak? You got a squeak? Call us right now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. We’ll be back with more answers, after this.

    (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: You know, buying a fixer-upper means you’ll always have something to do on the weekend. This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: If you’re trying to fix up your fixer upper, call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT because we’ve got the tools to help you get the job done. One caller to the program this hour is going to win a Ryobi One+ hand planer worth 60 bucks; part of the series of Ryobi One+ tools. Twenty-five different power tools; one 18-volt battery. Call us now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Alright. Well it seems like Ken in Michigan’s going on a vacation and he listens to The Money Pit on WHAM. Not using your fridge for four months? What’s going on? Where you going?

    KEN: That’s correct. I just have an extra building, actually and was wondering, in the winter, if I leave the refrigerator on for a couple months, I take the temperature in the building down to 45, does it make sense to unplug the refrigerator after a certain time or is it OK to let it go through the chilly winter?

    TOM: Well, are you going to have food in it?

    KEN: No, no food.

    TOM: (chuckling) OK. I think it’s fine to unplug the refrigerator. Let it dry out; so leave the door open for a couple of days if you can. And then I would just stick a bottle of Arm & Hammer Baking Soda in there and close it up. Walk away, clean it real well and it’ll be good to go. There’s no reason to leave it on; no reason to use that energy while you’re not going to use it.

    KEN: OK, thank you.

    TOM: Alright, Ken. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Rose in Jamaica, Queens listens to The Money Pit on WABC. How can we help you in your money pit?

    ROSE: About three years ago I installed a new gutter and leader system.

    TOM: OK.

    ROSE: It’s called Life Guard.

    TOM: OK.

    ROSE: And there’s supposed to be a lifetime warranty and it never worked from day one. The system does not absorb the rain water. And my basement is completely ruined. I want to know what does lifetime warranty mean.

    TOM: Well, you would think that it means that you’re never going to have to replace those gutters again. But clearly, what you have there is not working for you and it sounds to me like this company needs to make good on it. If I had my druthers, I would want it removed and replaced with a good old-fashioned standard gutter system which is going to work fine. I’m sure you probably installed this so you wouldn’t have to clean the gutters.

    ROSE: I had a beauty (ph) and I was coerced into taking this new thing (inaudible). It’s my fault.

    TOM: Well you know, listen. You make the best decisions based on the available information. You know, I’m sure that you wanted a system that wasn’t going to require maintenance but clearly you’re getting a lot of ancillary damage from having the system that you have now.

    So our recommendation would be to remove and replace it because the most important thing here is to get this water under control. Your problem’s going to get a lot more expensive than the cost of replacing the gutter system if you allow – continue to allow the basement to be saturated. You have hit the nail on the head. That water landing right around the foundation has nowhere to go but into the basement. And a standard four-inch K-style gutter system – a standard extruded gutter system – that will cost you all of probably, I don’t know, $2 or $3 a linear foot to have installed is going to collect that water and run it away. You want to make sure the downspouts are extended four to six feet away from the foundation. And if you want to use any type of gutter guard system at all, you can use that kind that’s removable so that it can be cleaned.

    We have one on our house in New Jersey that – I think it was called the Gutter Guard Waterfall System. And basically it’s a louver that snaps into the top of the gutter and it lets most of the water wash over. Except I will tell you, with those louvered systems, when a really, really heavy water – rain fall, you get so much centrifugal force from the water that it does fall over the edge. We haven’t had any basement issues but I’ll tell you, having no guard is probably more important than making sure the gutters are functional in the first place. So I wouldn’t concentrate too much on the guard. I would concentrate on getting the gutters working, Rose, so that you get that basement dry because that’s the only way you’re going to avoid a continuing moisture and, potentially, a dangerous mold problem in the basement.

    LESLIE: You know, that’s really that sad that that happened to her. Because a lot of times – especially in Queens in New York – a lot of the homes are sort of set up on a small hill and then that sort of goes down out to the street. So when the downspouts come down, they might bury them into that hill system to then come directly out to the street or to the concrete sidewalk. And perhaps what’s happened is something’s not even connected properly or that buried pipe is so clogged and was ignored when the new downspout was hooked up to it, that there could be a leak in there, you know, in addition to the gutters not working at all.

    TOM: Well the gutter is really, truly a system that really has to work from the roof edge right out to the discharge. So certainly if you’re ever running your downspouts into a pipe that runs underground you need to make sure it’s free flowing. If it’s not, you could have it snaked out and if you really don’t know what’s there, you know, these drain cleaning companies have cameras that can run down there and I’ve seen those cameras really identify major cracks in those pipes as well.

    So all of those things plug into the possibility of a gutter system not working right and causing your basement to leak and it all has to be addressed. So, sorry that happened to you, Rose, but really, at this point, I would give up on the so-called lifetime system that’s not working for you and just get a standard set of gutters and get that water away from the house.

    LESLIE: Are you looking for a way to update the look of your ceramic tile backsplash? Well, we’ve got a great idea that’s not going to cost a fortune. That’s next.

    (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, making good homes better.

    Hey, do you love the look of natural stone countertops but hate the maintenance? Find out what you’re doing wrong that could set those stains in deeper. The right way to clean natural countertops is in the next edition of The Money Pit e-newsletter. It is free and available right now at MoneyPit.com.

    1-888-MONEY-PIT is the number you call if you have a home improvement question. And you can also log on to MoneyPit.com and click on Ask Tom and Leslie if you have an e-mail question. So let’s jump right in to the e-mail bag.

    LESLIE: Alright, we’ve got one here. It’s from Robert in Beebe, Arkansas. I like how that sounds. ‘I hate the color of the ceramic tile in my kitchen. Can I paint it with a paint that’s made for garage floors?’ I don’t think that would be a good idea.

    TOM: You know, that’s not – that’s an interesting idea. I bet you that would work. Of course he’s talking about epoxy paint.

    LESLIE: Well, the epoxy would be a good idea but I don’t know …

    TOM: You mean decorating wise it wouldn’t look so hot. (chuckling)

    LESLIE: Yeah. (chuckling) I mean you can tint garage floor paint and get a good color but …

    TOM: You don’t want a garage floor gray countertop?

    LESLIE: These are my concrete-look tiles. (chuckling) No, you actually can paint them, Robert. And what you want to make sure you do is first really clean that tile surface and you want to use something pretty heavy duty. Make up a solution of 50/50 ammonia and water because that’s going to get rid of any soap film or grease that’s going to occur; especially behind the sink. Just clean it really well so you can get good adhesion. If you want to be really super extra thorough, you can wash the tiles with a mild acid solution, which is really meant to clean ceramic tiles to get rid of excessive grout. That’s overdoing it but you can do that step if you want.

    You want to make sure you rinse the surfaces really well with plain water and then let everything dry. Step away from it for a day. Don’t use the kitchen. Don’t introduce more grease. Just keep it drying and keep it clean.

    Then you want to make sure you prime it with a high quality, adhesion-promoting primer like ZINSSER’s latex primer. They call it Bullseye 1-2-3. And it’s going to really make sure that your topcoat paint is going to stick very well to that ceramic tile. And it’s going to make sure that it’s not going to scrape off or chip off, which can happen. If the area is going to be, you know, right behind the sink or a lot of water is going to get on it, you might want to use Bin which is an alcohol-based primer because that’ll help it be very, very durable.

    And once everything’s primed and dry, you want to use a high-gloss finish paint because that’s really going to give you the same look of a glazed tile. Again, if it’s a lot of water in the area, use an oil base because that’s going to be more durable in a water prone area.

    And also, ask your paint guy. There might be an epoxy coating that you can use. I’ve even seen at fine art stores something called Pubeo (sp) or Pubao (sp). I don’t know how they say it. But it’s a ceramic paint. It’s kind of pricy because it’s five bucks for something small. But that’s also going to work on ceramic; even terracotta tiles. Just ask around. Look at the right products. Your finished project is going to be fully cured in two to three weeks, so don’t scrub it.

    TOM: Does that mean you can’t use the countertop for three weeks?

    LESLIE: Well, if it’s a countertop, you know, be very careful. Don’t wash a lot of things on it …

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: … don’t clean it, don’t scrub it, don’t rest a heavy pot. Be gentle because it does take a long time to cure. And when it’s drying, that’s when it’s really delicate. So give it some time.

    TOM: Alright. We’ve got another e-mail, from Francis in Pensacola, Florida. And Francis says: ‘We recently moved into our new home and the Brazilian cherry hardwood floors have some depressions in them from some heavy furniture appliances. Is there a way to bring these out of wood without replacing the sections?’

    Little trick of the trade. Take a wet rag and a steam iron and put the wet rag down on the depression and then put the steam iron above it. That will make the wood swell. Now, it may also damage the finish (Leslie chuckles), which means you’ll have to refinish it. But if you swell the wood with an iron, you can sometimes take that depression right out, Francis. So give it a shot. You got nothing to lose.

    LESLIE: Great tip. Plus we like making more work for you.

    TOM: You’re listening to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, available 24/7/365 at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974 and online at MoneyPit.com.

    Coming up next week on the program, find out why you need to be a little bit of a Martha Stewart and Bob Vila at the same time when it comes to getting your garage cleaned out. We’re going to have some tips to make that dark and very dangerous space work better for you. That’s coming up next week on the program. Until then, 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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