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Home Improvement Tips & Advice

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    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete

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

    BEGIN HOUR 1 TEXT:

    (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. You got a question about your home improvement project? Need some help with that do-it-yourself dilemma? Call us right now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And Leslie, we’re going to start the show off by delivering some excellent advice as always.

    LESLIE: Yeah? What about?

    TOM: Well, listen to this. Here’s a little news story from your neck of the woods; out on Long Island. There was a company who was out delivering fuel oil – did you hear about this?

    LESLIE: I have not heard about this.

    TOM: Well, you know, when you get a fuel oil delivery, the company comes up to your house, they look for that pipe on the side of your house that is connected to the oil tank that is in your basement –

    LESLIE: It sounds like it’s going somewhere bad but go on.

    TOM: – and they filled up the tank. Except – in this particular case, for this particular couple –

    LESLIE: Was it the wrong house?

    TOM: It was the wrong house and …

    LESLIE: So somebody got free gas?

    TOM: No, somebody got their basement full of fuel oil.

    LESLIE: (gasping) Oooohhh …

    TOM: The whole basement got filled with fuel oil. And you know why that happened? Well, obviously, there were two people at fault here. Number one – the oil delivery company went to the wrong address –

    LESLIE: This sounds so bad.

    TOM: – obviously. But secondly – when they switched from gas to oil, they left the pipe in the wall. When you switch, folks, from gas to oil and you get rid of that oil tank in your basement, take the pipe out of the wall, too. Because it can happen. You know, it was an honest mistake. But with that pipe sticking in the wall … remember, when these guys come to deliver –

    LESLIE: So what happened?

    TOM: Well, when they came to deliver the fuel oil, the oil tank was gone but the pipe that once connected to the oil tank was still going through –

    LESLIE: So now they’ve got a basement full of fuel. Next. What happens next?

    TOM: Well, now they have to clean it up.

    LESLIE: (overlapping) Did the house blow up? What went on?

    TOM: No, but it stinks and they can’t live in it and they’ve got to soak it all up. And now they’re probably going to have to break up the concrete floor –

    LESLIE: Aw.

    TOM: – and dig out the … you know, it’s a mess. I mean these people can’t live in this house, now, because this happened. And you know what? This is not the first time I’ve heard this story. It happened near me, it happened a year earlier in New York, and it could happen to you.

    So if you have an oil tank that you have removed from your basement and you’ve converted to gas, make sure you take the pipe out of the wall. It’s that two-foot piece of fuel oil pipe.

    LESLIE: Yeah, but what about pilot lights by burners and water heaters and … couldn’t the house have just burst into flames?

    TOM: (overlapping) Well, I mean sure it is potential but one thing about oil is it has to be atomized to burn it. If it’s just kind of there, it probably won’t catch on fire. The fumes could but the oil itself won’t. It’s more of a contamination issue. So, remember, if you convert, remove the pipe from the wall. If you’re driving around that …

    LESLIE: And if you don’t want to remove the pipe, put your address on a sticker above it.

    TOM: (laughing) No, there’s no big deal. Pull the pipe out of the wall. You’ll have a two inch hole in the wall; fill it with concrete. Call us, we’ll help you. (laughing) So there’s your first tip of the day on The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. How not to get a basement full of fuel oil.

    We’ve got a great show in store for you. You know, remodeling your kitchen isn’t just decorative; it’s also a fabulous investment. And one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle is countertops.

    LESLIE: As for countertops go, there are a lot of options and choosing one can be really, really difficult. There’s a couple things you need to consider. Those are price, durability, style, function and color. And to help you shop smart, we’ll have the editor of House Beautiful Home Remodeling later this hour. And she’ll compare different products by price, durability and style. So lots of choices for you out there.

    TOM: Leslie, and every caller is going to be entered into the contest for the multiTASKit. So let’s get right to the phones.

    LESLIE: Sean in Alabama is looking for the best way to insulate the walls. Sean, tell us about your project.

    SEAN: Well, we bought a house in … that was built around the 1930s. And we wanted to know the cheapest way to insulate the exterior walls because there’s no insulation in them. And I did have an extra question to add to that. We also have a window problem. We’ve got the … like the six-panel single pane windows –

    TOM: Right.

    SEAN: – and I wanted to know is there a way to replace them without taking the whole casing out.

    TOM: Sure. Yeah, let’s tackle first things first. Let’s talk about how you insulate those walls. If the walls are already up and there’s no insulation in them and you’re not want to take – you’re not wanting to take down the drywall or the plaster or the siding, the best thing to do is blown-in.

    SEAN: Blown-in. And how do you do that? I mean do you have to cut holes into the (inaudible) -?

    LESLIE: (inaudible)

    TOM: What happens is you drill small holes into the inside. They’re usually about an inch in diameter. And the insulation is typically cellulose; it’s treated with a fire-retardant chemical so it doesn’t burn. And it’s basically filling up those cavities in the wall.

    LESLIE: The cavities between the studs.

    TOM: Yeah. And I’ve found that it’s probably best to have that done by the guys that do it everyday because they’re pretty good at making sure it gets into the –

    LESLIE: (overlapping, chuckling) Because it’s so messy.

    TOM: Yeah, and also making sure it gets into every little nook and cranny, which is important.

    SEAN: But there’s no kind of dividers in between the studs, are there? I mean like –

    TOM: Well, there could be. There could be something that’s called cats (ph) or blocks, especially in a 1930’s house. It’s possible. And that’s why I say that if you have a pro do it, they know how to make sure it’s going where it’s supposed to go.

    SEAN: Okay. Because they’ll probably know how much is supposed to be going in that one area.

    TOM: Yeah, and if it’s … if it’s a block … if there’s a fire-stop in between, you may have to do two holes; one up high and one down low. We want to make sure we get that filled in. And then what happens is you cover it with a plug and then you plaster it; you don’t see it when it’s done.

    Now, as far as replacing your windows, there are a lot of options there. Right, Leslie?

    LESLIE: Oh, there are tons of options. First you want to think about what you want to do as far as is the framework okay, do you want just a replacement window. But those single-pane windows are definitely not what you want. They’re causing a lot of problems, I’m sure, for the house. It’s cold. There’s condensation.

    SEAN: Mm-hmm. Sure is.

    LESLIE: Really not that huge of a difference between double pane and triple pane; so save the money there. But look into things that carry low-e glass because they’re the most energy efficient. And it will also help keep the heat in your home, keep the air conditioning in your home. It helps to reflect the sunlight in and keep the heat in. So it’s really smart to think about getting the low-e glass. And it’s really not that much of a markup.

    SEAN: Okay. And do you … do you know a place where I might be able to get that? Is it in like a Home Depot or a Lowe’s that has that?

    TOM: Oh, absolutely. Home Depot has a great selection of replacement windows. And those are custom-ordered. You can basically go there, give the sales person your measurements and they’ll be made to fit. And they’re not very expensive. I’ve found that the replacement windows typically go from under $200 to maybe around $500, depending on the size. You’ll have options as to the type of glass. As Leslie said, double-pane low-e is best. You could also order whether or not you want grills in the glass; you want them divided up. Which, in your case, in a 1930’s house –

    LESLIE: Would be really nice.

    TOM: – is probably what you want because it’ll look really sharp.

    SEAN: Okay.

    TOM: And the other thing you might want to ask is if they will come out and actually do the measuring for you. There may be a small additional charge for that. But that’s the best way to make sure that the windows are measured correctly. Insulation is not that difficult to do; but if you don’t want to do it yourself, they have an installed sales program that could do it for you.

    SEAN: Okay.

    TOM: Alright?

    SEAN: When I called about the walls, I’d heard on your radio show – you were talking to another customer that said something about wall … certain type of wallpaper you could cover the inside of your walls with that would help.

    TOM: A wallpaper that would insulate?

    SEAN: Yeah, did I hear you correctly or did I just misinterpret?

    TOM: Hmm. No. I don’t … I don’t think so. We may have been talking about a drywall product that doesn’t grow mold.

    SEAN: Okay. Well –

    TOM: Yeah. No, I think that’s a different … that was a different conversation. Okay, Sean?

    SEAN: Okay. (laughing)

    LESLIE: At least he’s listening.

    TOM: That’s right.

    SEAN: I’m listening. (laughing)

    TOM: Alright, Sean. Thanks so much for calling us at –

    SEAN: I love you … love your show. Appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Duane in Kansas is looking for the most energy efficient light bulb. Looking to save some cash, Duane?

    DUANE: Yeah, I guess you could say that. Energy efficient. What I have is … on my house, under the eaves of the house – soffit of the house, I guess you could call – I have some lighting; probably eight lights that come on at night.

    TOM: Okay.

    DUANE: And they don’t need to be very bright; actually, I want them somewhat dim. And, also, something that will last a long time so I don’t have to go up there and replace them, too. And I was wondering what the both energy efficient and also the longest lasting and also a light that really put out … doesn’t need to be that much light needs to be put out, too.

    LESLIE: Well, I know for interior uses, they make a compact fluorescent light bulb which looks like a fluorescent tube but it’s all sort of coiled up on itself; it’s kind of interesting looking. But, Tom, can you use those on the exterior as well?

    TOM: Sure you can. And what’s neat about them is they only use a quarter of the electricity that an incandescent bulb might use to give you the same amount of light. So, for example, if you’re used to a 60-watt bulb – you say you don’t want them to be super bright – this particular compact fluorescent will only use 15 watts of light.

    LESLIE: But it says it … when you look at the packaging, it says 15 watts on it; but it’ll tell you ‘equal to a 60-watt incandescent light bulb.’

    TOM: Right, exactly.

    LESLIE: So you know exactly what it is that you’re getting. And these last thousands of hours. They’re saying something like nine years.

    TOM: (overlapping) Yeah, a lot longer than … yeah a lot longer than incandescents. They are a little more expensive but I think that’s the answer –

    LESLIE: But it’s worth it.

    TOM: – to your … to your question, Duane.

    DUANE: What’s the lowest wattage ones that they make, do you know?

    TOM: Probably somewhere around a 60 watt. Maybe a 40 watt.

    LESLIE: They might do a 40.

    TOM: Yeah, they might do a 40.

    LESLIE: But you can get those at any sort of home improvement center. And they really do last and they do prove to just maintain an energy efficient mode. So you won’t be up on a ladder anytime soon.

    DUANE: Okay. Sounds good.

    TOM: Alright, Duane?

    DUANE: Alright. You have a good day.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, Money Pit listeners. Do you want to hire someone for a direct-it-yourself project? But are you worried about being taken for a ride? Well, don’t be worried. Visit moneypit.com. Read our checklist of dos and don’ts for home improvement for hire. It’s one of hundreds of articles and columns in our Repair and Improve section. And everything there is fully searchable.

    TOM: And for an easy do-it-yourself project that you don’t have to hire out for, just grab your laundry detergent. That’s right; it’s not just for your clothes. You can head outside and use it for a great cleanup project. We’ll tell you what that is, next.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being brought to you by Aprilaire, makers of professionally-installed, high-efficiency air cleaners. Study after study shows that as homes become tighter and more energy efficient, more contaminants become trapped inside. Aprilaire’s technologically-advanced electronic and media air cleaners are the best choice for maintaining healthy indoor air. For more information, go to Aprilaire.com.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    So, Leslie, you know a wood deck is a fabulous feature for almost any home. It adds value and square footage to your home. And it can be a lot less expensive than an actual home addition.

    LESLIE: Well, to keep your wood deck looking great and lasting long, you should clean it regularly. Well, how, you ask? And here it is. Powdered laundry detergent and hot water is usually enough to spruce up your winter-worn deck. It acts as both an abrasive and a cleanser. To eliminate mildew, use a 10 percent bleach solution. Use a power washer for extra impact and finish with a thorough rinse for a bright, shiny new deck.

    TOM: Sounds good. Now, does your deck need more than, say, just a bit of a cleaning? Are you staring at cracked boards? Do you see those nails popping out? Has your deck long since stopped being a no-shoe zone (laughing) for fear of the pain those splinters might dish out? Well, stop worrying and start fixing. We’ll show you how in the next edition of our weekly e-newsletter. You can sign up, today, at moneypit.com; and you’ll catch our guide to quick deck fix-ups in the next issue. And remember, it’s free. So sign up, today, at moneypit.com.

    LESLIE: Well, everyone can use a helping hand when it comes to home improvement and repair. And Ryobi has that extra hand in the form of the new multiTASKit. And we’re giving away one to a lucky caller this hour. The multiTASKit features the patented AIRgrip vacuum technology; meaning it basically just sucks itself to your wall. So it doesn’t even mark the walls, scratch it or leave any sort of marking. It has a rotating laser head attachment so you can create level and plumb lines to hang pictures or lay flooring. It has a rotating work light great for jobs in the dark or under car hoods. And it also has a magnetic tray you can attach to hold screws, nuts, different attachments. And the coolest thing is it has this little thing that can hold any sort of chair rail, it can hold a long board; it’s that extra hand so you don’t have to hire a buddy or, you know, bribe a friend in to help you. So call in now and it could be yours.

    TOM: It’s available at The Home Depot but you could win it by calling, today, at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Well, Doreen in Rhode Island is having a hard time keeping that shower on the second floor warm. What’s going on, Doreen?

    DOREEN: Well, we’re having a little problem. We own a cape – a seven-year-old cape – and just in the past month or so we started having a problem keeping the water hot out of the shower.

    TOM: Okay. Is it … does it go cold or something, like when somebody else is using the water?

    DOREEN: No. No, there’s no one else using the water. And –

    LESLIE: Nobody’s flushing the toilet; playing a prank on you?

    DOREEN: No, not at all. It’s just my husband and I. (laughing) And we’ve checked it and it’s about … from three to five minutes, it starts getting cooler.

    TOM: Okay.

    DOREEN: And we can actually put the whole faucet on hot and it’ll just be warm. And when we get out of the shower, we check the sink – make sure that the water’s hot – and it’s steaming hot. So –

    TOM: That’s weird. So in other words, it’s only cold in the shower –

    LESLIE: In the shower.

    TOM: – but not in the sink?

    DOREEN: Exactly.

    TOM: That’s really weird. Huh. Hmm.

    DOREEN: And I know my –

    TOM: Do you have a pressure balance valve in that shower? Do you ever have problems with the … with the water turning hot or cold while somebody else is using it?

    DOREEN: To be honest with you, it’s … it’s like I said; it’s just my husband and I. It’s usually not … we’re not using it at the same time. So, anything down stairs –

    TOM: Well, the weirdest thing is that you’re just running out of hot water in just that one … one faucet itself; that shower faucet. If you were running out of hot water in the whole house, it would be easy to figure out what’s going on. But if you’re telling me that you’re running it out of that one faucet, that’s kind of weird. I’m thinking that if you have a valve there, that maybe as the valve heats up it’s expanding and shutting off. Or if you have a pressure balance valve, that something is going wrong. A pressure valve’s the valve, by the way – that’s the valve that prevents you from getting scalded or –

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: – juiced with ice water when somebody else runs something else in the house. It’s a valve that maintains the mix of hot and cold water no matter what’s happening with the pressure in the rest of the house. And if you have that kind of valve and it goes bad, that could be what’s occurring there.

    DOREEN: Where do I find that valve?

    TOM: Well, I mean that’s what built into the bathtub itself. What kind of water heater do you have in this house? Gas or oil … I mean gas or electric?

    DOREEN: It’s oil.

    TOM: It’s oil?

    DOREEN: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: The water heater’s oil?

    DOREEN: (inaudible)

    TOM: You’re sure it’s an oil water heater?

    DOREEN: It’s a tankless water heater.

    TOM: It’s a tankless water heater. It’s attached to the boiler.

    DOREEN: It’s attached to the boiler.

    TOM: Well, then, you shouldn’t be running out of hot water, that’s for sure. Those things can pump out lots and lots and lots of hot water.

    DOREEN: This never happened before.

    TOM: I think this is a problem with your valve itself.

    DOREEN: Okay.

    TOM: Either that or there could be air in the line that’s blocking it. You need to have a plumber look at this. For some reason, you’re not getting the flow to that one faucet. Shouldn’t be that big of a deal to figure this out.

    DOREEN: Really?

    TOM: Worst case scenario, you’ll need a new valve.

    DOREEN: Oh, that’s great.

    TOM: Alright.

    DOREEN: And one other really quick question. Is it a big job to replace the mechanism for a … for the shower itself? The hot and cold … it’s kind of old-fashioned.

    TOM: No, not necessarily.

    DOREEN: It’s only seven years old but it’s ugly, I think. (laughing)

    TOM: Oh, now we’re talking about a cosmetic improvement.

    DOREEN: Yeah, exactly.

    TOM: Yeah. No, it’s not that big of a deal to do. I mean the plumber can do it in an hour or two, depending on what’s behind it and how much work they have to do. Do the valves for this wall happen to back up like to a closet on the other side, by any chance?

    DOREEN: Yes. Exactly, yes.

    TOM: Well, that’s perfect, see. Because that’s the –

    DOREEN: Is there an access panel already?

    DOREEN: No, there’s not an access panel but the … right in back of this is the bathroom … the linen closet.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s the way to do it. So you’ll cut a hole in the back of the closet so you won’t even see it. And then they’ll do the work from behind there and they can panel that back up and you’ll be good to go.

    I was just writing a story, today, for a magazine about a new kind of faucet that’s made by Moen. It has this new immersion technology which makes the shower only … it delivers only two-and-a-half gallons a minute worth of water; which is not a like. But it like pressurizes it so it gives you a really aggressive shower.

    LESLIE: So it makes it feel like it’s a lot of pressure.

    TOM: Yeah, so you can do a lot of things by changing your faucets, these days.

    DOREEN: Is there a particular name to that? Or is that -?

    TOM: It’s called immersion. And it … immersion technology. It’s available in a bunch of their faucets.

    DOREEN: Okay, great. That’s –

    TOM: Alright?

    DOREEN: Thank you so much for your help.

    TOM: You’re welcome.

    DOREEN: I really appreciate it.

    TOM: Good luck, Doreen. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Well, Frank in Maryland is looking for a time machine because you want to get away from that wood paneling, my friend. Is that true?

    FRANK: Yeah, I’ve got some dark wood paneling that I’m wondering if I can paint?

    LESLIE: Well, do you like the stripy look?

    FRANK: Yeah, the stripes fine. It’s just a very dark paneling. My wife has decided she wants to brighten up the room.

    LESLIE: Well, it’s easy to do. First you want to make sure that it’s … it’s clean. You want to make sure that there’s not a lot of buildup of grease or dirt; so do your best to sort of wash it down, wipe it down. Because cleaning really will make sure that paint adheres very well. Then you want to prime the heck out of it. Prime it, prime it, prime it; because this will make sure that the paint really sticks well to the primer. And then you can go ahead and paint it any color you’d like. And it’s interesting because you already have the striping effect from the wood paneling. So if you wanted to introduce … add highlight of a different color here and there, you could do a striping because it’s already built in for you; you don’t even have to tape it up.

    FRANK: Right. Now do I need to use an oil-base or can I do a latex paint over the paneling?

    LESLIE: No, you can do a latex paint. You can use a latex primer and that will give you a good adhesion.

    FRANK: Okay. Sounds good. I appreciate it.

    LESLIE: Okay? Enjoy that new room.

    FRANK: Thank you.

    TOM: Frank, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Okay, Leslie, nothing beats a great kitchen when it comes to selling your home; it gives you a great return on investment. But if yours is looking a little worse for wear, a kitchen redo can offer a solid return.

    LESLIE: And a big part of any kitchen redo is your countertops. And there are some great new options when it comes to resurfacing your kitchen counters. When we come back, we’ll get the pros and cons of the most popular choices from the editor of House Beautiful Home Remodeling magazine – Lauren Payne.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being 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 prices. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. You got a question about your home improvement project? Need some help with that do-it-yourself dilemma? Call us right now; 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Well, Leslie, now it is time for some counter intelligence.

    LESLIE: Ah. Well, for decades, laminate or tile were the two basic choices in surfaces for your kitchen and bath. Well, that has changed. We’ve come a long way with counter materials including natural stone, engineered materials, wood, even concrete. Well, what’s hot and what’s not in countertops?

    Joining us, to talk about trends as well as materials that can stand the test of time and add the most bang for your buck to your kitchen or bath, is Lauren Payne; editor of House Beautiful Home Remodeling magazine. Welcome, Lauren.

    LAUREN: Thank you.

    LESLIE: Hi, there. So I saw a little bit about your article. Tell us about some of these new innovations.

    LAUREN: Well, I think the greatest new material out there – all the natural materials. The concrete, the stone, even the wood. You can get any look you want, right now, for your countertops. Just great stuff is available.

    TOM: So, Lauren, in the February 2006 issue of House Beautiful Home Remodeling you’ve got a great article called Counterpoints: Counter Materials Put on Many Faces From Practical to Poetic. A poetic countertop; that’s kind of intriguing. Why don’t we start right there. What’s poetic about countertops?

    LAUREN: Well, I guess poetic is taking a little bit of poetic license, perhaps. (laughing) However, we can talk about engineered stone. We can talk about all the natural materials. We can even talk about the great inroads made in laminate. So there’s a lot of poetic stuff going on.

    LESLIE: So you can allow your inner muse to sort of dictate where your kitchen goes. Because some of the photos that you show so … show beautiful tiles. Even – Tom and I were talking about this beautiful metal countertop that had sort of like a burnished scroll-y pattern in that. How was that made and how does that stand up?

    LAUREN: Well, that’s actually stainless steel and it’s one of my favorite looks. But if you’re a stickler for scratches, it’s not for you.

    LESLIE: And fingerprints, I guess.

    LAUREN: Well, fingerprints and you can’t stick things to it. It’s hard to keep clean. But if you like the industrial look, stainless steel is a great look for you. It does take scratch marks. It does have a lot of sticky fingerprints. So it’s best to be used on, maybe, an island or one area of the kitchen that you’re not going to do a lot of cutting.

    TOM: Yeah, but the nice thing about stainless steel is you can pretty much abuse it. Because you can’t kill that stuff.

    LAUREN: No, no. It will show scratches but … and it can dent and it can do all that; but it will still look pretty cool.

    TOM: Alright, let’s talk about stone. You mentioned engineered stone. Exactly what is that?

    LAUREN: It’s manufactured materials that are engineered by man. So it’s taking bits of granite or bits of quartz or even bits of concrete and mixing them with manufactured material to make a good strong, hard surface. It’s generally less expensive than, say, a granite countertop but looks really good.

    LESLIE: Well, and it also gives you the freedom to pick, sometimes, outrageous colors or out –

    LAUREN: Well, that’s what I was just going to throw in there. That you can get a consistent color way (ph) or you can just add really outrageous colors to the look that you want. So you can really do a whole lot with that material.

    TOM: Another topic that you wrote about was wood countertops. That one surprises me a little bit because I think of wood as a pretty unhealthy top for a kitchen; just because of wood’s ability to absorb liquid including everything that comes off your –

    LESLIE: And it needs a ton of maintenance.

    TOM: Yeah, because of the food (ph).

    LAUREN: Well, I’ve got to tell you I love wood countertops. I have one in my own kitchen. It’s like a giant butcher block. Yes, it does scratch; it does absorb odors and bacteria, even. But you just clean it. I just clean mine. I oil it regularly. It looks real worn with all the cuts and scratches on it. Even stains. So, I think for a limited area in your kitchen – like an island – a butcher block look is a great look. So …

    LESLIE: Do you have to … before you oil it, do you have to sand it down every so often?

    LAUREN: Well, if you buy it from a manufacturer that’s already prepared it for you – as opposed to just from the lumber yard – it will be prepped. So, no, you don’t need to sand it. But you do need to oil it to keep it looking fresh. Otherwise, it’s (inaudible).

    TOM: Do you ever wipe it down with like a bleach solution or any kind of mildicide to kill the bacteria?

    LAUREN: I don’t. I don’t. I just scrub it with my Soft Scrub and put another coat of oil on it.

    TOM: So far everybody in the family’s feeling okay there, Lauren? (laughing)

    LAUREN: Yeah, and we’re all healthy. (laughing)

    LESLIE: So with all of these choices, do you feel like people are shying away from natural stone products? Or do you think that it’s all spread equally across the board?

    LAUREN: Well, I think people really like the natural stone products. I think people really like the look of granite and quartz and anything that has that real earthy look to it. But I also think that all these other options out there that are available, people … they’re real show-stoppers; people are looking at it.

    One thing we didn’t discuss is tile. Tile is a really great look for a countertop. The grout can stain and it’s uneven surface but it’s a really great look if you want something that’s unique, one of a kind, unlike anything else you’re going to see out there.

    LESLIE: And it’s also something you can do yourself.

    LAUREN: Yeah. If you’re that handy, you sure could.

    TOM: Yeah, and you know, if the grout’s an issue, you can use epoxy grouts, too, which don’t absorb oil and grease and they’re a lot more durable. Hey, one more thing before we let you go, Lauren. You talked a little bit in the article about laminate countertops; and, in fact, something called solid-color laminate. Talk to me about that.

    LAUREN: Solid-color laminates are great because you don’t have a seam. And you don’t have that white edge where it turns the corner. So it’s a great look. They’re available in a lot more colors; we don’t have to stick with the avocado kitchens anymore. Just because it’s laminate doesn’t mean that you’re reduced to color selections that you don’t like.

    LESLIE: No, there’s textures and patterns.

    LAUREN: Oh, yeah. There’s some great looks in laminate.

    TOM: Lauren Payne, editor of House Beautiful. Thanks again for stopping by The Money Pit.

    You know, keeping the inside of your home up to date is important. But it’s also important that you keep up that curb appeal. If you’ve got a dull white film covering your outdoor flagstone, we’ll tell you how to get rid of that, next.

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being sponsored by Metal Roofing Alliance. We call metal roofing investment-grade roofing. Because in your lifetime, a metal roof will save you money and add value to your home. To find a Metal Roofing Alliance contractor or to learn more about investment-grade roofing, visit www.metalroofing.com.

    TOM: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. The website is moneypit.com.

    So, Leslie, let’s step outside for a moment, shall we?

    LESLIE: Okey-dokes.

    TOM: Let’s talk flagstone patios. They look great and because they’re mortar-free, you just put them together like a puzzle piece and it looks great. The problem is they do get, sometimes, this mineral salt buildup on it that makes it sort of white and grayish. And that, though, is easy to clean. Here’s what you need to do.

    You need to dip a brass wire brush into a solution of one part pool acid and 20 parts water. It’s very diluted acid here, folks. And you simply brush it on top and that cleans it up very nicely. And as settling occurs, you need to add sand in between or under those loose pieces to keep them stable. Because sometimes you get a little dirt that washes out and the problem is that if you get a little bit of a hole under there, it will sort of be unstable and then it can be easily cracked. So keep them stable from wiggling and simply wash them down with that part of one part acid, 20 parts water and you will be good to go and always flying high with that flagstone.

    LESLIE: Well, our prize, this hour, can really help you with just about anything except cleaning your flagstone. What it is, it’s the Ryobi multiTASKit. And it uses their vacuum AIRgrip technology and it’s pretty cool because what it does is it will suck itself to your wall. And then, there are four attachments that you can use with it. One acts like an extra hand; so you don’t have to bribe your buddy anymore, with pizza, to come over and help you. It will hold that long board for you. Another one is a laser level. Another one is a rotating work light. And the last one is a magnetic tray. So this, really, will be your best friend when you can’t get anybody else to come over and help you. You can use this; you can tackle just about any project on your own. And it could be yours if you call in and ask your question on air. So call in now.

    TOM: It’s the best kind of helper because they don’t complain –

    LESLIE: Exactly.

    TOM: – they don’t take coffee breaks, you don’t have to buy them anything. You know, they just work. We love that.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’ll keep working for you until you’re done and you say it’s over.

    TOM: And we will keep working for you if you call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Well, something’s keeping Denny in Missouri up at night and it’s not the noisy neighbors. It’s the creakin’ pipes. What’s going on?

    DENNY: Well, I travel a bit and I get home every other weekend. And lately, when I come in, I turn the water on in the bathroom or kitchen sink or flush the toilet and the pipes start hammering and water squirts out and coughs and sputters and then comes out. And it’s at a reduced flow. And then, as it runs, it will slow down to just a bare trickle.

    TOM: Hmm.

    DENNY: And it seems like month after month it keeps reducing further and further to where I can barely get some of the faucets to flow at all, right now.

    LESLIE: (very low audio) What kind of pipes do you have there?

    DENNY: They’re copper.

    TOM: Have you taken the aerators off of the … off of the faucets to see if there’s any obstruction there, Denny?

    DENNY: No, I haven’t tried that. Since it was happening in the toilet as well – it doesn’t have an aerator on it –

    TOM: Well, that’s true.

    DENNY: The pipes just bang and get almost like a garden hose –

    TOM: Sure.

    DENNY: – that you have coiled up outside.

    TOM: Sure.

    DENNY: You turn the water on and as the water shoots through the hose, you can hear it coming out the other end. And it starts sputtering –

    TOM: Right.

    DENNY: – and here comes the blast –

    TOM: Yes.

    DENNY: – and then some air and then another blast and finally it starts coming out.

    TOM: And, Denny, that’s normal when you’ve had your water off. When the pipes bang like that, when you’ve had the water off, that’s normal. What concerns me is that you’re having this reduction of flow. I’m wondering if you have a problem with a valve or an aerator. Now, if you’re saying that it’s happening … for example, if it’s happening in the tub faucet where there is no aerator in addition to, say, the vanity faucet where there is an aerator, then maybe we’re not talking about a blocked aerator. We could be talking about a different problem.

    So I would say, first of all, the banging is normal when you’ve had your water off. That’s always going to happen. If it happens when the water is on and using all the time, you shut your pipes off and the pipes bang, that is a different condition called water hammer. And it’s caused by the centrifugal force of the water moving through the pipes and then stopping suddenly. That could be corrected with something called a water hammer arrester.

    If you’re having a reduced flow, then mostly likely, since you have copper pipes that you – like you said to Leslie’s question – the reason that’s probably happening is one of your valves is not fully open. Even though it may be unscrewed, it may not be completely open. I get the feeling that when you go away, are you turning the water off in the house?

    DENNY: No, I’m not.

    TOM: So you’re not turning the water off. You’re just, when it comes back on the … you’re still getting a lot of air in the lines. Is that correct?

    DENNY: Yes.

    TOM: Alright. Well, I would suggest that you take your main water valve, turn it all the way off and turn it all the way back up again. Because it may not be fully open. And also, unscrew all of the aerators on all of the faucets that you can. And check for debris behind them. Because you’ll be amazed that sometimes you’ll get just the smallest piece of say, copper solder that broke off inside the pipe, and can absolutely close down an entire line.

    DENNY: Okay. I’ve got the faucet that has the single knob that you turn left or right –

    TOM: Right.

    DENNY: – for hot or cold. And if you pull up on it to –

    TOM: Yeah, and the aerator is the tip of that faucet. It unscrews. Do you have city water or do you have well water?

    DENNY: It’s city water.

    TOM: Okay. Well, why don’t you have your water pressure checked to see what kind of flow is being delivered. Somewhere, Denny, it’s being reduced. And if it’s not being reduced at the aerator, it’s got to be being reduced at a valve. And we’ve got to find out where that is and once you know where that is, this problem’s going to go away very quickly. It sounds like it’s a problem with a valve, Denny.

    DENNY: Okay.

    TOM: But we’ve got to get to the bottom of that. So I would call the utility company, have them check the pressure at the street to see what kind of water pressure you’re getting out there. And if you’re not getting 50 or 60 pounds of pressure, that could be it. From there, you’ve got to check your valves going forward. It sounds to me like something is not opened up all the way and that’s why you’re having that issue.

    DENNY: Okay.

    TOM: Alright, Denny?

    DENNY: Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: If you’ve ever tried to locate a leak, you know it’s tough. Coming up, we’ll help a homeowner determine why water is collecting in his garage. Stay with us.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being sponsored by Peerless. If you’re putting in a new bathroom or kitchen faucet, Peerless can help you with every step including the hardest one – getting that old faucet out. For a complete undo-it-yourself guide, visit the Peerless faucet coach at faucetcoach.com.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. Also available on the web at moneypit.com.

    So, Leslie, why don’t we turn to the moneypit.com email inbox and take a look at who’s been writing us about their home improvement questions.

    LESLIE: Okey-dokes. Here’s one. Harry from Wisconsin writes: ‘We had a new home built and noticed water forming at the base of the cement floor in our attached garage whenever it rained. Also, where the drywall meets the area is wet but just in that one spot. We asked our builder about it and he said it was just condensation from the stud and that it would dry out.’ (laughing) ‘Well, it hasn’t and we had him come back.’

    TOM: Optimistic builder, don’t you think.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’ll dry out. (laughing) Okay. Well it goes on: ‘He took a garden hose and ran water up the roof of the house for about 10 minutes but no water formed. He said he didn’t know where it was coming from and now, four years later, the drywall tape is peeling and the drywall in one spot looks dark. What would you do?’

    So, nothing happened in the four years or -?

    TOM: Yeah, I don’t know. I love the optimistic comments. ‘Oh, it must be condensation.’

    LESLIE: ‘It’ll dry.’

    TOM: Well, listen, if it’s rain … if it’s rain-activated … so in other words –

    LESLIE: But it’s not because they ran the hose on the roof.

    TOM: Well, no. But what if … what if the rain is not coming down the roof into the wall?

    LESLIE: Because it’s like the wind is lifting up the shingle and getting underneath it?

    TOM: Or what if the water is just collecting around the foundation? Because remember about the force of capillarity? That can pull that water up into that foundation; all the way up into that wall space and show up that way. So I would go through the basics, here. If we know it’s not a roof leak, I would definitely look at the grading and the drainage around this wall, Harry.

    LESLIE: It could just be a problem in that one spot.

    TOM: Exactly. Like for example, do you have a downspout that’s dumping water right near there?

    LESLIE: Right on the outside of the wall? (laughing)

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, now there’s an idea. (laughing) Let me check that. You know, if it’s happening because … because of rain, you want to look at all of those areas, in that foundation, that could collect water and re-divert that water away. So in other words, direct it away. Improve your grading, improve your drainage, clean your gutters, extend the downspouts. Do all that stuff. Then prime the wall, fix the loose tape, prime it, repaint it.

    LESLIE: And it might even be that there’s no flashing on the lower half of that wall.

    TOM: You mean like foundation flashing? Well, that’s –

    LESLIE: (overlapping) You know, sometimes builders go … exactly, sometimes builders go ahead and put the shingles all the way down to the floor or to the dirt.

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: Which would be a big no-no because there’s nothing to protect it from the water getting in underneath those shingles and getting into the garage wall work.

    TOM: Yeah, but –

    LESLIE: So that could be something, too.

    TOM: True, but in any event, you’ve got to manage that water. And even if that is the problem, the water will be managed if you do that.

    Hey, how about one more? This is from Texas. It says: ‘My son and nephew, both college students with residential construction experience, are interested in purchasing fixer-upper homes. They need to know what to look for and what to stay away from and if a real estate agent is needed in this operation.’

    Well, considering that you guys – that your son and your nephew are both pretty green at this, I would say that a realtor’s going to be able to point you to the right neighborhoods that are going to have a good return on investment. But, generally, what you’re looking for is the worst house in the best neighborhood. (laughing) And by worst house, of course, I mean, Leslie, those that just need the cosmetic repairs and not the new foundation kinds of things.

    LESLIE: And so, maybe, it might be even smart to bring a home inspector along on some of these ones that you think are really promising so you know exactly what’s needed to be done.

    TOM: Well, home repairs can really bug you (chuckling), especially if bugs are involved. That is the subject of today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Well, when it comes to things destroying or damaging a home, water isn’t the only thing that can do it. Termites can actually destroy your home. Termites love two things. Wood and plenty of time to devour it. Termites can make quick work of the wood in your home structure and every hour adds up to more extensive and expensive damage to your home. So to keep your home off the menu, have a professional exterminator pre-treat the home’s foundation with a termidicide. Termite treatment services are very affordable; and so, to avoid spending extra money on reconstruction, make that call right away before it’s too late.

    TOM: 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Call us 24/7, 365 with your home improvement questions. But, for now, that’s all the time we have. 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)

    END HOUR 1 TEXT

    (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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