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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: Call us now with your home improvement project. Call us with your do-it-yourself dilemma. Call us if your fire alarm has gone off unexpectedly (Leslie chuckles), but call us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. We’re here to help you solve your home improvement problems; to inspire you to tackle projects that can beautify your home; basically, to make your house better. If we can help you do that, call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    We’ve got a good show in store for you today. First up, have you ever noticed that no matter how hard you scrub away the moldy black stains around the bathtub they seem to always come back? Well, there’s a very good reason for this. We’re going to tell you what it is and how to get rid of those stains for good in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also this hour, we’re going to tell you why the pressure-treated wood that you might have used to build your deck could be prone to very specific weak spots that could prove to be dangerous.

    TOM: Yeah, you know, we had a deck collapse here not too long ago this summer; here in New Jersey. And you really have to be very, very careful with the way you build those decks.

    Also coming up, do you know that as much as half of the energy used in your house is devoted to heating and cooling it? But there are many things that you can do to reduce energy costs and be environmentally friendly in the process. And that’s why our green scene reporter, Aimee Oscamou, is going to stop by in just a bit to give us some tips.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and don’t forget to call in with your home improvement question. We’re giving away a great prize to one lucky listener. We’re going to keep those bugs away without any messy sprays or lotions because you could win an insect-repelling hat and bandana. How cool is that? It’s built right into the material. And it’s a great prize. It’s from the folks at Buzz Off.

    TOM: So call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Stephanie in Arkansas, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you?

    STEPHANIE: I have an aquarium rock that is stuck in my garbage disposal and …

    TOM: Oh, I hope the fish isn’t stuck in there, too.

    STEPHANIE: No, no, no.

    TOM: (chuckling) OK.

    STEPHANIE: They’re in the tank. But I got the key out and I figured out – because I’m a first-time homeowner …

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    STEPHANIE: … and I’m blonde.

    TOM: Oh, OK. (Leslie laughs)

    STEPHANIE: But I got the key – I got the key out and I figured out how to …

    TOM: Which explains how the aquarium rocks ended up in the garbage disposer, huh? (chuckling)

    STEPHANIE: (chuckling) That’s how it got there. It’s a blonde error. But I figured out how to unstick it with the key underneath.

    TOM: OK.

    STEPHANIE: And I felt in there and I thought I got everything out but as soon as I turn it back on it’s still in there. So …

    TOM: Alright. Well, are you just hearing it sort of like, you know, run around? Like in other words, it’s not stuck. It’s not jammed.

    STEPHANIE: It is stuck right now but I can get it unstuck.

    TOM: OK. And – but so it’s still in there and when you turn it back on it jams again because the rock kind of gets jammed in there?

    STEPHANIE: Correct.

    TOM: Alright.

    STEPHANIE: And it’s an older garbage disposal so is there a way that I can clean it without turning it on? (INAUDIBLE)

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, I’ve got an idea. I’ve got an idea for you. Alright, first of all, get it unstuck so it’s just down there and loose.

    STEPHANIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Make sure the disposer is off. Get a vacuum, turn it on and stick the suction of the vacuum down there and pull that rock right out.

    STEPHANIE: OK, great.

    TOM: OK? Or get some …

    LESLIE: Hey, that’s a fun trick.

    TOM: Get somebody to help you with it. Yeah.

    STEPHANIE: If worse comes to worse and I have to take this off, is it hard to put them back on? Is there anything specific that I have to really watch for, for it to work right?

    TOM: The disposer? Ugh. That would be – that would be a big hassle.


    TOM: You should be able to get that rock out or, you know, wear it down to the point where it just goes down the drain. (Stephanie chuckles)

    LESLIE: Just grind away at it?

    TOM: Grind away at it. Yeah, exactly. Now, if it’s loose and inside the disposer, you just can’t like see it, you know, very often when stuff gets stuck in there you can stick a flashlight down there and see it and grab it.


    TOM: But of course, the power has to be off. That’s critical. But if you – and if you use a vacuum – you know, even a shop vac or wet/dry vac – lot of suction, stick it down there. It’ll probably pull it right up.

    STEPHANIE: OK, great. Thank you so much.

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

    LESLIE: Tuned in on WJFK in Virginia we’ve got Brad who’s got a perfect question for this time of year: exterior lighting. How can we help?

    BRAD: Yeah, just installed a new patio in the backyard and now we would like to put in some exterior lighting around the perimeter of the yard.

    TOM: OK.

    BRAD: Basically uplighting for the trees with a few electrical outlets at the far end for putting in weedeaters, trimmers, that kind of thing. My question is how should the electrical wiring run and the biggest question is what supports the fixtures at the individual locations?

    TOM: Well that’s an excellent question. First of all, the wiring that you should be using will be low-voltage wiring. And that’s going to simplify the wiring system because the low-voltage circuit, all the wires sort of snap together. It can run over the surface of the soil or just underneath the surface of the soil and go to a control box where you have a transformer. There are also different lighting control panels where you can wire these different circuits together so you can create, you know, just the right mood that you’re looking for with the uplighting of the trees and the drama and the sophistication.

    LESLIE: Tom, can you even run those low-voltage wires to those GFCI outlets for the exterior or do those need to be on a separate line, separate wiring?

    TOM: No, because that would not be low voltage. That would be high voltage. And so, in that case, you’re going to run separate circuits and they should be ground fault circuit protected. So it’s really two types of wiring; one for the outlets and another one for the low-voltage lighting. But the low-voltage lighting is definitely the way to go because it’s more cost effective and it looks great and it works very reliably.

    LESLIE: And Brad, you’ve got the right idea when you’re thinking about doing some uplighting on trees and perhaps any architectural structures. Maybe you’ve got a pergola or some sort of awning that you want to sort of uplight into just to help spread more light throughout the property. But think about it. With low-voltage lighting you’ve got a lot of options for beautiful fixtures that really blend in beautifully with the nature. You can even have solar-powered lighting, which is a wonderful environmental feature. And also think about, you know, if you’ve got a big tree or something on your property, put a light up into the tree shining down onto the patio because then it’ll sort of cast this moonlit glow through the branches and really create a spectacular look once the sun goes down.

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

    LESLIE: You are listening to The Money Pit.

    Hey folks, you know fall is going to be here before you know it and now is really the time to prepare. And we can help. So call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, seven days a week, any time of year at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, are you losing the battle against mold and mildew? We’re going to share a can’t-miss secret weapon, after this.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Behr Premium Plus Ultra exterior paint and primer in one with advanced NanoGuard technology to help save time and money while preserving your home’s exterior finish. For more information visit Behr.com. That’s B-e-h-r.com.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show standing by for your phone call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT with your home improvement question, your do-it-yourself dilemma. Call us right now. We are here to help you out.

    Hey, here’s something else we can help you out with. We can help you keep those mosquitoes and other bugs from making a meal out of you during one of your backyard barbecues because one caller we talk to today is going to win an insect-repelling bandana and hat from Buzz Off. The protection is invisible; it’s odorless; it’s built into the clothing. So once you put it on – the hat, that is – you are protected from mosquitoes. I’ve got some Buzz Off clothing and it works very, very well.

    LESLIE: That’s so amazing.

    TOM: It’s great stuff to use when you’re doing a project outside or even working in the garden. So this prize package is worth 50 bucks. We’re going to give it to one caller to 1-888-MONEY-PIT with a home improvement question. So call in now.

    LESLIE: Yeah, alright. I hope you guys win that super-cool prize.

    Alright. Are you fighting a losing battle against those ugly black stains that keep reappearing in your tub or your shower? Well, that’s because that is mold and mildew and they’re actually growing plants. You know, they’re living there. They keep coming back because they’re alive. So if you want to eliminate them for good you’ve got to use a mildicide. You want to spray the area thoroughly and then let it sit on there for at least 15 minutes and then let it rinse. And a mildicide can be as simple as a bleach and water solution. Mix it up about 20 percent bleach, 80 percent water. And this treatment is going to prevent any mildew that’s left behind from taking root and coming back.

    TOM: Yeah, good point. You know, too many people just sort of spray it on and scrub it off but then it does come back. So you’ve got to let it sit there for about 15 minutes.

    What’s your home improvement question? We want to hear it right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Let’s get back to the phones.

    LESLIE: Carol in Florida, welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help?

    CAROL: Hi. Well, I have an older house that has that wood paneling on the walls. And I wanted to know – I’m trying to paint over it. And I painted with a base paint but it looks like somebody just kind of whitewashed it. It doesn’t look like it’s been painted at all.

    TOM: Did you prime it first?

    CAROL: I put that KILZ on it.

    TOM: OK, well that’s good. But that’s not the topcoat now. You realize that.

    CAROL: Right, right. I put that on the bottom because that’s what they told me at the home store.

    TOM: Yeah, you put that on first.

    CAROL: Then I took a base paint and I put over that.

    TOM: You’re still not happy with the look?

    CAROL: No, it still doesn’t look like it’s been painted. It looks kind of like somebody just smeared like milk-of-magnesia all over it.

    TOM: I wonder if you used a two-part – like a faux painting system and just put a base on and you didn’t put the glaze on. That’s what it’s sounding like because you should have had some sort of a sheen on that.

    CAROL: Oh, no. It’s completely flat. I mean it doesn’t even look like it’s been painted.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s not the right product then.

    TOM: Yeah, I don’t – yeah.

    LESLIE: Because what you want to use is you just want to use a latex interior paint at whatever sheen you like; matte, flat, semigloss, pearl.

    CAROL: Oh.

    LESLIE: And if you put the KILZ as your primer on there, you should have had no problem with your topcoat latex sticking. Because, really, it’s the primer that causes the adhesion and really helps that topcoat stick. And at this point I think you’re going to have to prime again.

    TOM: Yeah, it sounds to me like you put the wrong topcoat on.

    LESLIE: OK. Alright.

    TOM: Alright, you just want a standard wall paint at whatever sheen you’d like it to be.

    LESLIE: And whatever color.

    TOM: And whatever color. Yeah, of course.

    CAROL: OK. Well, that was my mistake and I misunderstood and I just grabbed the wrong kind of paint then.

    TOM: Well, you know what, Carol? Everybody thinks painting is so simple but, you know. Hey …

    CAROL: Oh, no. It’s not.

    TOM: … chemistry is not that simple. (laughing) It’s chemistry. Alright, Carol, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Taking a call from Joe in New Jersey regarding his basement. What’s going on?

    JOE: Hi. I’m trying to waterproof my basement. I have the cylinder block walls and I purchased Behr paint specifically for the walls. But on the floor in the corners I have a gap; about a two-inch gap between the cylinder walls and the actual cement floor. And I really want to waterproof it so what can I do to either plug that up with some maybe cork or something?

    TOM: Well (clears throat), first of all, buying the Behr basement masonry paint was a good thing because that, when you place it on the walls, is going to stop that soil evaporation where the water gets – collects on the outside and evaporates and eventually leaks into the basement. But there’s a couple of other things that you should be doing outside to improve the grading and the drainage so that you reduce the volume of water that gets there in the first place.

    LESLIE: Yeah, you really want to look at the outside of your house, Joe, before you even think about the inside. Number one, you want to make sure that there are gutters, you know, and sufficient amount of gutters and downspouts all along your house’s roof line. You want to make sure that if you’ve got those gutters that they’re clean; that the downspouts are free-flowing. You know, really take the time to clean out these gutters a couple of times a year and if you don’t feel like doing it yourself you can hire a service to come and do it quarterly or go ahead and put some sort of guard cover on top. The ones that sort of flap over the entire top of the gutter are a lot better than the screen-like ones, which tend to just macerate everything and then get clogged down in there.

    Then you want to look at where those downspouts deposit all of that water that they’re collecting off of the roof line and you want to make sure that they extend, you know, three feet or more away from your home’s foundation; otherwise, that water’s going to get right back into there.

    And then also look at the grading all around your property. And you want to make sure that all of that dirt is going to slope away from your house. You want to go down about six inches over four feet and you want to make sure that the grading is done with clean fill dirt and not topsoil; otherwise; it’s just going to hold the water right there against the foundation.

    TOM: Now Joe, let’s talk about that gap. How old is your house?

    JOE: It’s about 12 years old.

    TOM: OK. Well, the way your foundation was constructed – if it’s like most 12-year-old homes – is the footing is poured and the block is built right on top of that. And then there’s probably stone put down. You may or may not have a stone trench under the outside edge with a curtain drain in it. But the cement slab is the last thing that’s put in and they specifically leave a gap between the slab and the wall so if there’s any water that gets onto the walls it will fall down into that crack and then go under the floor as opposed to across the floor. So that’s not necessarily something that we would tell you to seal up. In fact, the only time that sealing that up is a good idea is when you’re dealing with a radon problem and you have to use the floor as sort of the barrier that you’re drawing the gas from under to get outside of your house.

    But if you follow the steps of improving the grading; improving the drainage; being really, really careful with your gutter system and then you use the Behr basement and masonry paint, that’s probably going to solve this issue for you once and for all. It’s all about outside maintenance.

    JOE: OK. I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Listening in on WSVA, we’ve got Brenda in Virginia talking about a foundation. What can we do for you?

    BRENDA: Yes, I have a problem with water that’s coming off of my patio into my foundation right above the – it’s at the big beam.

    TOM: OK.

    BRENDA: Rotting up the beam that my house is – you know, part of the foundation; right above the foundation.

    TOM: Right. OK, that’s called the box beam, Brenda.

    BRENDA: OK, whatever it is. (chuckling)

    TOM: (chuckling) Alright.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) So, do you see that it’s rotting out? Are you seeing water on the interior? How do you know what’s going on here?

    BRENDA: Well, I see from the outside that it is rotting.

    TOM: OK. And so this is where – what is attaching to the house at that exact spot?

    BRENDA: The – it’s like T11 siding or whatever.

    TOM: OK. So what’s happening is the water is getting underneath the siding and then it’s decaying the box beam. Now is it the siding itself that’s rotting or is it the beam?

    BRENDA: Both.

    TOM: How do you know the beam is rotting? Do you – can you inspect it from the underside?

    BRENDA: Yes, you can hit it and see that it’s rotting.

    TOM: OK. Well …

    LESLIE: So you can poke a screwdriver right through it.

    BRENDA: Yes.

    TOM: Right. What’s going to have to happen here, Brenda, is you’re going to have to do some surgery on the wall. Now if you have T1-11 siding that’s the plywood siding with the grooves in it that looks like a vertical clapboard kind of thing.

    LESLIE: Like almost like a paneling.

    TOM: Yeah, like a paneling, right. What you’re going to have to do is remove the sheets of that paneling. Now, of course you could, you know, cut part of it off and then you’d have to put in a piece of S (ph) flashing where you rejoined it. Probably the best thing to do is to remove the siding. And then you can assess the condition of the box beam and you can cut it out and slip a new one back in. That work should probably be done from the outside but there might be another option and that is, if you can simply replace the siding and leave the rotted beam in place, you may be able to add a sister beam to the back side of it from – is this on a crawlspace or a basement?

    BRENDA: Crawlspace.

    TOM: OK, so you may be able to work into the crawl space and insert a sister beam next to it. Because since that box joist is only an inch-and-a-half wide and it’s going to be sitting upon a three-and-a-half-inch sill plate, you could put another box joist right next to it and, in fact, sister those two together. Try to find an area where you have some solid mass left in the original beam and then bolt them. And that’s one way to carry the load.


    TOM: But in either case you’re going to have to replace the siding and deal with the leak or it’ll just continue to repeat itself.

    BRENDA: Right. OK. I appreciate that.

    LESLIE: Talking floors with Nicole in Alabama. How can we help you?

    NICOLE: Yes, ma’am. I live in an older home approximately built in 1950. It is a concrete block home for the four original rooms and it’s been built on. It’s a fenced-in. But I cannot keep floor paint on one of the wooden floors. And I was wondering if the humidity and the moisture caused from maybe the ground had something to do with it because it’s probably five inches between the wood floor and the actual dirt underneath the house.

    TOM: Well, absolutely. If you have a dirt floor underneath that you’re going to have a lot of humidity that’s constantly sort of bombarding the wood. The wood gets moist and moisture and paint just don’t work well together.

    LESLIE: It’s causing that paint to flake right off of it.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. The only thing that you could do is to try to remove as much of the loose paint as you can and then prime the floors this time before you put another coat of paint on it. And prime them with an oil-based primer, like a KILZ. And then you’ll have a half a chance at getting that paint to stick. But I think the moisture is …

    LESLIE: What about – can you access that area below the floor to sort of put down …

    TOM: If it’s five inches?

    LESLIE: … a vapor barrier? Is there any way from the side? Nothing.

    NICOLE: No, there’s no way to get down to it. And we had actually sanded it down to the bare wood surface and primed it with the Behr primer for floors. And then we used the floor and porch paint from Behr on top of it. So we went through all the steps but neither of those are oil-based. So the oil-based may really …

    TOM: The oil base makes a difference. Yeah, if you have a real adhesion issue or an unpredictable surface, the oil-based primers are a lot more effective. I would use the Bin from Zinsser or the KILZ made by Masterchem. Either of those two would work very well with this.

    NICOLE: OK, well great. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

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

    LESLIE: Hey, coming up, right about now you are probably super fed up with your summer utility bills. I know I am. Up next, we are going to have some easy energy-saving tips that are going to keep you and your wallet very cool this summer. So stick around.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This segment of The Money Pit is sponsored by Angie’s List. Need work done around your house and don’t know who to call? You don’t have to guess who’s good and who’s not. Angie’s List has thousands of unbiased reports on local service companies with details from real member experience. Call 888-944-5478. Or visit AngiesList.com.

    TOM: Don’t look now but your home improvement projects just got easier because this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And it’s hot.

    LESLIE: Yeah.

    TOM: It’s hot.

    LESLIE: It is.

    TOM: And we’re spending a lot of money trying to reverse what Mother Nature lies upon us in the summer. In fact, as much as half of the energy used in your home is devoted to heating and cooling it. But there are many things you can do to reduce that cooling cost and that energy that it takes this summer.

    LESLIE: That’s why we’ve turned to our green scene report and certified tree hugger (Tom chuckles), Aimee Oscamou. She is on the case with dozens of things that you can start doing today.

    Welcome, Aimee.

    AIMEE: Thanks, guys. Good to be back with you.

    LESLIE: Yay, we love to have you. So, what are some of the ways that, you know, we can stay cool at home without really feeling guilty about what we’re doing to the environment and what’s going on with our wallets?

    AIMEE: Well, there are different levels of things you can do in your home. There are low-cost solutions; no-cost solutions; and then, just smart maintenance of the systems you already have in place in your home.

    LESLIE: Well, alright. For our frugal friends, what about those no-cost ones?

    AIMEE: The no-cost ones, those would be things just around the home that you can do to augment the system that you have. So, for instance, you can let your landscaping work for you. If you have trees on the west and south sides of your home, they’ll really help to keep things cool during the hot hours of summer.

    LESLIE: And think about that great excuse you’ll have for your spouse, why you’re not trimming the hedges.

    AIMEE: That’s right, yeah. (Leslie chuckles) With the shade, go and you’ll be all set to go.

    Other things you can do are making sure to keep shades and blinds drawn during the sunniest hours of the day. That’ll hold the cool inside and allow you not to have to run your AC as much.

    TOM: And here’s a good tip. Aimee, you say that you should be running heat-generating appliances at night. That’s really smart. So what you’re saying is you should be planning when you do things like dry your clothes or perhaps even bake a cake.

    AIMEE: Exactly. All of those things are going to generate a lot of heat from the big appliances like the dishwasher, the clothes washer and dryer and the oven. So don’t do anything major until the evening.

    LESLIE: Yeah, no turkey roasting until November, folks.

    TOM: (chuckling) Aimee, you think that most people believe that if their air conditioning system worked last year that it’s probably still fine this year and that just might not be the case?

    AIMEE: That’s a typical strategy but it’s wrong. You really have to maintain your air conditioner and give it an annual checkup well before the season kicks in. So, at this point, people should have already done that before the weather got warm. You want to have a pro come in and do an annual inspection. And then you can do some smaller maintenance chores around it like cleaning around the outdoor unit; hosing off the fins and that kind of thing; and going inside to the indoor portion of your system, vacuuming out all the dust that’s gathered and making sure that the condensation drain is clear.

    TOM: We’re talking to Aimee Oscamou. She’s our green scene reporter and, really, green trends expert.

    LESLIE: Yeah, Aimee, you’re also saying that one of the system maintenance things to do is especially to make sure that you keep your doors and windows shut while you’ve got the AC on. Now, I know that would work with a window unit but, really, for whole central air systems as well?

    AIMEE: Some portions of the house are going to let the cool air you’re generating leak right out. So you want to keep things as tight and efficient as you can while you’re running that big, heavy, expensive appliance.

    TOM: Yeah, and one way to check that is if you have return ducts in the rooms then there’s no reason to have the doors open. If you have the kind of central air conditioning system where you have a return duct in the hall, then at least you have to have like about a one-inch gap under the door when it’s closed to let the air recirculate back to the return. But if you have returns in the rooms, as many of us do, then you can totally seal it up.

    LESLIE: Man, you lucky people with central air.

    TOM: Now what if you don’t have central air? What are some things you can do with fans?

    AIMEE: Well, there’s a really great fan solution. A whole-house fan can actually work in a home that either has an air conditioning system as a way to cut down on the use of it or in a home that doesn’t have one. And what a whole-house fan does is draw cool air – outside air – into the home through slightly open windows strategically opened around the house and then it sends all the warm air up and out through the attic for a quick and efficient change in temperature. And it’s actually a project that most experienced DIYers can do themselves.

    TOM: Now, I think a lot of people confuse attic fans with whole-house fans …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … but they’re actually quite different.

    AIMEE: Yes, they are. Yeah, the whole-house fan is in a pretty central location. It could even be located usually in a hallway where you may have a lot of the bedrooms of your home …

    TOM: Right.

    AIMEE: … and – yeah, so that’s the location for that and it does work differently

    TOM: And if you’re going to put one of those in, we did in a condo that we owned before this house and we used a timer on it. And that was kind of cool because at night you could set it for an hour or two and it sort of cooled the house off while you were going to sleep and then it would go off after that hour or so and the temperature had already dropped outside and the windows were open and so you were quite comfortable; as opposed to, you know, starting the air conditioner up and letting it run all night long.

    AIMEE: Exactly. Great.

    TOM: Good tips. Aimee Oscamou, our green scene reporter, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    AIMEE: Thanks a lot, guys. Stay cool for sure.

    LESLIE: Alright, well speaking of green, you know that pressure-treated lumber – it looks kind of green when you pick it up at the store and it’s probably the first thing you’re looking at when you’re thinking about building a new deck or even repairing or rebuilding the one that you’ve already got. But did you know that the chemicals that they use to make that lumber pressure-treated can sometimes actually cause corrosion to the deck’s fasteners? Well, we’re going to tell you what to do about that, next.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Ryobi, manufacturer of professional feature power tools and accessories with an affordable price for the do-it-yourselfer. Ryobi power tools. Pro features, affordable price. Available exclusively at The Home Depot. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Making good homes better, this is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show standing by for your questions about your home improvement projects at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. Maybe you have a floor squeak. Maybe you have a plumbing question, a toilet leak. Maybe you have a wiring question. You know, I was thinking about this today. Leslie, you know there’s no book out there called Electrical Wiring for Dummies.

    LESLIE: No, and there shouldn’t be ever. (laughing)

    TOM: And that’s for a really good reason. (chuckling) So, call us and we’ll help you with those wiring questions at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. If you do, you’ll not only get the answer to your question but a chance at winning a nice prize from the folks at Buzz Off. They make insect-proof clothing. Basically, it’s an insect shield hat and a bandana that once you put it on you will be protected from mosquitoes. How is this possible, you say? Well, because the insect repellent is actually built into the clothing. It will protect you from mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers and all those other things that bug you when you’re doing those outside home improvement projects or even working in your garden. If you want to win, you’ve got to call us now at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Alright, before the break we were talking about decks that are being built from pressure-treated lumber. You might already have one or you might be thinking about building one. But before you do, remember that special chemicals are used to pressure-treat that type of wood that’s often used and first grabbed for building those decks. And these chemicals, they’re corrosive and they can actually, over time, begin to eat away at a deck’s galvanized metal connectors, the fasteners, the joist hangers within weeks. So it happens kind of quick once you put the whole thing together. And once the breakdown starts, the deck’s structural integrity is going to be compromised and that can turn a beautiful outdoor leisure area into an unsightly hazard.

    TOM: That’s right. Well, you can fix it though. You can use a weather-resistant membrane to actually sort of isolate the deck’s galvanized metal components from the corrosion. We like Grace Vycor Deck Protector. You just wrap it around the ends of the deck joist and it’s kind of self-adhering. It’s a bit sticky.

    LESLIE: You know, Tom, you should also run it along the top edge of your joist so that as you’re putting the decking across it and you’re driving nails or screws through, that doesn’t sort of help break everything down.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s a good point because as you drive nails through it sort of seals right around the nail. So that’s a good way to use it, too.

    If you want more information on the Vycor Deck Protector top product, it is available at Grace’s website at GraceAtHome.com. That’s GraceAtHome.com. Or call us with your deck question right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Janet in New Jersey’s got a leaky roof. What can we do to help you?

    JANET: I had a new roof installed on my home and when I went to use my washing machine I had a tremendous flood. Apparently, they took the vent pipe out and put it back in and it wasn’t in there tight. And I had a lot of water coming out. The roofer was very cooperative. And I had a plumber in but he said it should have been – should be snaked. They put the pipe back in without snaking it and now I’m having a big buildup in my sink.

    TOM: OK. So I’m a bit confused. Is the leak because of a roofing problem or is the leak because of a plumbing problem?

    JANET: The leak is because when they – they have a vent that goes to the top of the roof.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: Correct.

    JANET: And apparently they pulled that out and then just pushed it back down again into the plumbing.

    TOM: OK.

    JANET: It wasn’t a tight connection.

    TOM: Alright. So, where the pipe goes through the roof there’s a piece of flashing. And they pulled that out and now that’s been reestablished. And the pipe where you say it goes down and connects in, has that been reset?

    JANET: Well, they reset it but apparently it’s backing up now with …

    TOM: Alright, well that’s a different issue, OK?

    JANET: Oh, OK.

    TOM: This is a completely different issue. Unless – was a reroof going on at the same time here? Was there a lot of debris in the attic space?

    JANET: No. No.

    TOM: Alright, because I was going to say that sometimes the debris could clog the pipe. But the pipe up there is a vent pipe so if your sink is backing up and there’s a clog somewhere down the line, I doubt that these two conditions are connected, Janet.

    JANET: Oh, I see. I thought maybe because they put it back in it did something to (INAUDIBLE).

    TOM: (overlapping voices) No, because the plumbing pipe up above the roof line is for venting. And you’re not going to have water that’s going to get up in there unless there’s a really, really bad backup and it pushes water up that high. So the situation here is that you’ve got a clog somewhere in the line. Is it just in the sink?

    JANET: Yes.

    TOM: Well, check the trap under the sink. That’s the first place to check. Very often …

    JANET: Now, when the plumber came in and fixed it – reconnected the pipe – they took out the hose that I had in the sink and put it in the pipe.

    TOM: OK.

    JANET: And since then I’ve had this problem.

    TOM: Alright, well …

    JANET: Do you think it would help if I just had it snaked?

    TOM: I think that you need to have the plumber come back and he shouldn’t have just done part of the job without doing the whole job and that is to find out why this drain pipe is obstructed. Because obviously that’s what’s happening.

    LESLIE: Alright, we’re going to talk to Ann who’s got a powdery substance on some bricks in the basement. What can we do for you?

    ANN: I have this powdery, which is a mortar, between the bricks. And I was wondering what the solution was for this?

    LESLIE: Are you seeing like a white dusting on the bricks or are you talking about …

    ANN: Mm-hmm.

    LESLIE: OK, so the mortar’s not like crumbling out; the grout’s not coming out?

    ANN: In some places, yes.

    TOM: OK. Well, it sounds like you have two issues. The white, crusty stuff is mineral salt deposits and what happens is when you have water that gets into the foundation wall it leaks through because the block or the brick is very hydroscopic; it’s very absorbative and the water gets pulled through. And then it gets to the other side and evaporates to the air but it leaves its mineral salts behind. So you’re looking at different mineral salt deposits on the wall. They’re not structural. They’re not going to hurt the wall. You know, you can remove them with a vinegar and water solution.

    The second thing is when you have deteriorated mortar that’s very typical in a very old brick wall and sometimes that has to be repointed. That’s a basic masonry repair that could be done by a mason. Typically they mix up some mortar; generally make it a little stickier than it would have been the first time it went in. Scrape out the old stuff and then repoint those joints with new mortar and that’s the way you maintain a masonry wall.

    ANN: Isn’t that a long and tedious way (INAUDIBLE)?

    TOM: Yeah. Yeah, welcome to home ownership. (all chuckle) Sometimes it is. You know, if there’s not a lot of deterioration you may not be able to do the mortar work. But if you’re mostly concerned about that powdery substance …

    ANN: Yes.

    TOM: … very likely to be mineral salt deposits and nothing to worry about.

    ANN: But you don’t think it’ll affect the wall?

    TOM: Nope.

    ANN: It won’t.

    TOM: Nope, nope, nope, nope. Not at all.

    ANN: Because it’s in only that one small room in my basement and all the rest are cinder blocks. I …

    TOM: (overlapping voices) Yeah, and I bet you – and I bet you, Ann, if you look outside the wall of that area you’re going to find some water sources like an overflowing gutter or grading that’s sloping in or something like that. If you’re always finding it in that one area I bet you there’s a …

    ANN: But it’s very dry in my basement. Very, very dry.

    TOM: I know that, but I’m telling you it may be dry that your feet are not getting wet but the water is getting against that wall from the outside. So if you look at that area on the outside of your house you’re going to find some adverse drainage condition. I can almost guarantee it because that’s what’s causing those white mineral salt deposits. And that could be easy to fix. That could be as easy as unplugging a gutter.

    ANN: It is?

    TOM: Yep.

    ANN: Oh, well that’s good to know.

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

    Now, we get many questions sent to The Money Pit e-mail in-bag and some of them are fairly standard, like ‘How do I fix a squeaking floor, Tom and Leslie?’; ‘How do I stop my toilet from running?’ This one, though, is really weird. We’ve got a question from a listener who has the following problem: whenever she flushes her toilet her lights dim. Somehow we have a crossed connection between electrical systems and plumbing systems. We’ll sort it out, after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit was brought to you by Aprilaire, makers of professionally-installed, high-efficiency air cleaners. For more information, go to Aprilaire.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT or log onto our website at MoneyPit.com and you will find our brand, spanking new project finder. This is going to help you look up the answer to just about any home improvement question. It’s sort of like the high-tech automated version of us (chuckles). It’s online at MoneyPit.com. And if you, for some reason, can’t find that answer you can click on Ask Tom and Leslie because I have to say, of all the things that we’ve written about on the website, up to this point I’ve never had an article about this particular topic that we got an e-mail from Erin.

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s right. This e-mail, as you said, is from Erin and she writes: ‘My lights flicker to the beat of a pumping sound whenever I flush the toilet, run the faucets and use the shower.’ (Tom laughs) ‘I’m thinking that there is a problem with my water pressure.

    TOM: You think. (laughs)

    LESLIE: ‘I don’t …’ – yeah. ‘I don’t know much about plumbing. This is my first home and I’ve been in it for over two years. I’m hoping these are problems that I can fix on my own because I can’t really afford to pay a professional to do the work. Plus, I’d rather learn about these things for the future.

    TOM: Well, this is going to be quite an education. I’ve got to say that.

    LESLIE: That’s strange.

    TOM: And it is definitely not a do-it-yourself project and it’s going to require a bit of speculation on our part because it is so weird. But the first thing that comes to mind, Leslie, is really a question. Now, if Erin is on well water this might make some sense because if she has well water she’s going to have a well pump. And the well pump might be kicking on every time she runs the water; especially if it’s not hooked up correctly. For example, if there’s no pressure tank or if the pressure tank is waterlogged, a pressure tank basically serves to fill up with water so it doesn’t have to actually – the pump doesn’t actually have to come on every time you turn the faucet on.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Every time you need it.

    TOM: Right. And when a well pump does kick on it can draw a lot of electricity. And so if, for any reason, it was improperly wired to the same circuit as your lighting, then as the pump kicks on it will cause a voltage drop; a sort of temporary brownout, which would cause the lights to flicker and also account …

    LESLIE: But could that be really dangerous?

    TOM: Yes, of course it’s dangerous. It could also account for that pumping sound that she’s hearing. What really has to happen here is the well pump – if this is, in fact, the problem – has to be put on a separate circuit; separate from lighting. Now, while we don’t normally see this when it comes to, you know, toilets and using water in the house, we actually do see a very similar situation in kitchens that’s very common. And that is that sometimes we get e-mails and questions from folks that say that their kitchen lights dim regularly. And you know why that is? It’s because the refrigerator, which has a compressor – again, big motor …

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … draws a lot of current – is hooked up to the same circuit as the lighting. Very common in an older home. So …

    LESLIE: And then every time that compressor kicks on …

    TOM: The lights dim.

    LESLIE: … you’re going to see those lights sort of dim; even though it’s just a second.

    TOM: Yeah, but Erin, regardless of what is causing this, one thing is very, very clear. Electricity and water do not mix. This is a potentially dangerous situation and so this is the one time when you do need to spend some money on a pro. This is not something you can diagnose and track down on your own. So hire a pro, get it sorted out and let us know if our speculation was correct.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and if there’s a lesson to be learned in all of this, when you’re looking to buy a house, flush those toilets; turn on the shower; turn on the water and look for those oddities because it’ll save you in the long run if you learn about it up front.

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. And among the problems and questions that we tackle all the time on the program is the question of color and what you can do about it. You know, ask any homeowner with stark white walls the main reason that they’ve not put color on their walls. It’s because they just don’t know where to begin. We’re going to …

    LESLIE: (chuckling) So suddenly we’re therapists.

    TOM: Right. This is home improvement therapy. That’s what we’re going to tackle next week on the program. We’re going to help you take the fear out of the equation. We’re going to teach you how you can find the color that you’ve been thinking on and actually see it on your walls before you actually commit to painting them. There’s a brand new high-tech tool that will help you do just that.

    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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