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Home Improvement Tips & Advice

  • Transcript

    Hosts: Tom Kraeutler & Leslie Segrete

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


    (promo/theme song)

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: The number, 1-888-MONEY-PIT, is what you need to call to get the answer to your home improvement question. 888-666-3974. Or log on to the tens of thousands of articles on MoneyPit.com.

    So Leslie, what are the home improvement projects you are going to tackle this summer?

    LESLIE: Oh, my goodness. Well, the yard is done so I think this summer we’re just going to kick back and enjoy it while we think about the things we need to do for the fall. How about you?

    TOM: I’ve got some painting to do and some siding to do. But we all have these projects that we want to get done to make our houses look great.

    And speaking of looking great, if you look around your neighborhood or your town, you’ll see that there are only a few basic styles of home. Have you ever wondered where the inspiration for these homes comes from? Like what famous abode may have sparked interest in your type of house?

    LESLIE: Hmm, maybe what is Monticello or the Biltmore? You never know. There are just some pretty famous houses that inspired a lot of architects over the years. So, later this hour, we’re going to hear from Fine Homebuilding’s editor, Kevin Ireton, about what the magazine considers the 25 most important houses in America and why they are so.

    TOM: And to help you spruce up your home, we’re giving away a Quick Clips Crown Moulding kit worth 275 bucks. Basically, it’s a do-it-yourself crown moulding kit and enough moulding to do your dining room, your living room, any 16×16 room. Have that looking snappy in a very short period of time. It has mitre-less corners so it’s easy to do. You want to win it, you’ve got to call right now – 888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974 – and come on the air and be willing to ask your home improvement question.

    So let’s get right to those phones. Leslie?

    LESLIE: Jake in Santa Rosa, California’s thinking about working on the siding of his house. What’s going on? Tell us about it.

    JAKE: I’ve got a home I built about 13 years ago and I used, due to budget constraints, masonite bevel … about an eight-inch beveled siding.

    TOM: Oh, that was a mistake, huh?

    JAKE: Oh, boy, you’re telling me. (laughing) And so now I’m in the situation where I’ve got to decide what to replace it with. To give you a little background, it’s a colonial.

    TOM: Are you part of that class action suit that was over hardboard siding?

    JAKE: Wasn’t even aware of it. (chuckling) Maybe I should be.

    TOM: They’re actually … a lot of that hardboard siding was involved in a class action suit because it was … the problem with the stuff is it wasn’t … not terribly bad stuff. It’s just hard to install. And typically, if it got overnailed, you would break through the surface of it and then it would swell up and sort of rot out on you.

    JAKE: Yeah, that and the ends. The ends are real susceptible to …

    TOM: And so is that what’s happening to you?

    JAKE: And actually, what’s funny is it was put on right but the wind sometimes, in certain locations, seems like it can get underneath it and get water underneath it.

    TOM: Right.

    JAKE: Because it’s kind of stained. You’ll see a drip from the back boards (ph) actually staining the painted boards from the … from the backside, so it’s time.

    TOM: So how can we help you?

    JAKE: What … I wanted to get your best recommendation on what to use. It’s a … it’s a two story colonial. And so, I wanted to go with a lap type (ph) siding …

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    JAKE: … and I know they’ve got the hardy plank out there and I guess there are some other composite type boards that are available …

    TOM: Yeah, I actually am residing a building right now and using hardy plank and I really like that stuff. And they have a version of it that’s painted at the factory that’s got like a 10-year warranty on it. So I like hardy plank because it’s non-organic; it’s not going to rot. And it’s also very durable and very tough. I mean it’s basically concrete siding is what it is. And now, with it being prefinished, you know, you don’t have to worry about painting it.

    JAKE: Is that difficult for a … for an amateur to apply?

    TOM: No, it’s not terribly difficult if you can do basic carpentry work. It’s installed like any other type of carpentry. And you’ll have to decide whether or not you want to pull up the old siding. I generally recommend that you pull off old clapboard because you have a better, flatter surface to work from …

    LESLIE: Well, especially since this one is so deteriorated underneath.

    JAKE: Yeah.

    LESLIE: You wouldn’t want it to compromise the integrity of the new siding.

    TOM: Yeah, this way you can reflash everything, as well.

    JAKE: The cuts, I guess, are a little more difficult on the ends in that kind of thing; with the hardy plank. I didn’t know if there’s a specific tool for that or …

    TOM: Well, there are … there is a specific tool for cutting the cementicious material that the shingle’s made out of. There’s a special blade for a circular saw or a table saw. And when you have this special blade, it cuts through it like butter.

    JAKE: OK.

    TOM: It’s a little dusty. You have to wear a respirator, but …

    LESLIE: Yeah, make sure you wear the respirator.

    TOM: Right. But otherwise, it’s great stuff.

    JAKE: OK, good.

    TOM: Alright, Jake?

    JAKE: That’s what I need. I really appreciate it.

    LESLIE: And you know, Tom, if you go to Remodeling.hw.net, you can find a cost versus value report, which will tell you how much you put into a project, what you will get as your return on investment at the time of sale. And if you do an upscale siding replacement, it actually has 103.6 percent return on investment. So that’s a great thing to do.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) So you can actually … you can actually make money on your siding job. Yeah, I love the cost versus value survey that Remodeling.net has on every year because it really gives you the idea, in different parts of the country, what the best home improvements are. And siding …

    LESLIE: And that’s the national average.

    TOM: Yeah, siding clearly is a great home improvement investment to make. So Jake, thanks again for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Roger in California finds The Money Pit on the QUAKE – KQKE. And you’ve got a bathroom situation and you’re looking for a new toilet. Tell us about it.

    ROGER: Well, the toilet sometimes clogs up when a person uses the toilet very hard and it seems to jam up. And then the toilet overflows.

    TOM: Is it a newer toilet, Roger?

    ROGER: No, it’s not a newer toilet. It’s been … I’ve had it for 20 years.

    TOM: Oh, really? Hmm. So, it sounds to me like it’s not, then, one of the newer low-flow toilets. It might be one of the toilets that is a four or five-gallon toilet. Is that correct?

    ROGER: I’m not sure. I think it … yes, I think it … it’s not a real low flow.

    TOM: Because if it’s a low-flow toilet and one of the older low-flow toilets, they tended to clog up a lot.

    ROGER: Uh-huh.

    TOM: And if it’s one of the newer toilets that’s better designed – for example, American Standard has one called The Champ and it has a totally new throat design to it so it doesn’t clog up and it has a new flush tower design so it doesn’t run – those work very effectively and don’t clog nearly as often as the original low-flow toilets did.

    ROGER: Aha.

    TOM: The other thing to check is simply for obstructions. And it could be that you have a partial obstruction somewhere in the … in the toilet itself or right under the toilet that’s slowing down the flow of water out of it.

    ROGER: Well, I tested that. I took the toilet off and I, you know, checked and then I ran a snake down and there was nothing clogging it up.

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    ROGER: And since it doesn’t happen constantly, I figured it must be that somehow it just … things aren’t getting through the way they are.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s … the physical design of the toilet is what’s causing it if it’s not clogged. And you might just not have a good toilet there. You may … it may be time to think about a new one. Take a look at that American Standard one. I put one in my house and it’s been great. It hasn’t … it’s never clogged since I put it in there.

    LESLIE: Svetlana in Illinois – in Chicago, actually – listens to The Money Pit on WYLL. And you’ve got a painting question. What can we do for you?

    SVETLANA: Yes, I do. Thank you for taking my call. I have a wrought iron fence that’s about 15 years old and it has never been painted. Couple of questions. I need to understand, before I paint it, do I need to sand it – number one? Number two – if I need to sand it, do I need to prime it after that and, if so, with what? And what kind of paint to use.

    TOM: Good questions. Well, first of all, you do need to prep the surface.

    LESLIE: She’s got all the steps right.

    TOM: Yeah, and the right order, too. You need to prep the surface. You need to get rid of any loose paint that’s on there or any rust or flakes. And you can do that with a stiff wire brush, is an easy way to do that.


    TOM: Secondly, you should prime it. And the reason you’re priming it is because primer has different qualities than top surface of paint. Primer is really designed to stick and have good adhesive qualities. So you put the primer on first and that assures that you have a good, even bond to all of the areas of the metal. And so, you want to use a good quality primer and then you want to follow that up with a good quality … probably, I would recommend an enamel top paint. So, in this particular case, for the durability aspects …

    LESLIE: And something that’s a rush prohibitor.

    TOM: Yeah, the rust inhibitors. You’re probably going to be better off with a rust-inhibiting primer and then an enamel top coat.

    SVETLANA: OK. Now, when you … if you were to paint it, would you use a roller or a brush or what would you recommend?

    TOM: Well, it depends. It depends on how hard it is. You’re probably going to need to do it with a brush; although you could save some time by doing the large, flat surfaces with the roller.

    SVETLANA: (inaudible)

    TOM: Or you could buy one of those very small rollers that can kind of go around the nooks and the crannies.


    TOM: So sometimes, with a fence like that, you do a little bit of everything. You roll where you roll and then you kind of finish it all off with a brush.

    SVETLANA: Right. And I don’t have to seal it at the end with anything.

    TOM: Nope, that’s it.

    SVETLANA: (overlapping voices) If I use like Rust-Oleum or something like that (inaudible).

    TOM: That’s all you have to do.

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

    TOM: Thanks, Svetlana.

    SVETLANA: (overlapping voices) I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    LESLIE: And Svetlana, if you’ve got some tricky spaces or if you’re finding you’re getting brush marks that you don’t like or the roller’s giving you a hard time, try one of those big sponges that you might use for washing your car or removing excess grout. You can buy it in the home improvement store. It’s like $1.00. Use that. Dip it in the … dip it in the paint, squeeze it out, lay it right against the fence and it’ll do a great job.

    TOM: Are those flies ruining your backyard barbecues this summer already? Well, up next, we’re going to teach you how to create a no-fly zone in your backyard.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by Behr Premium Plus Interior Sateen Kitchen and Bath Enamel with advanced NanoGuard technology to help consumers protect these areas, keeping them looking new longer. For more information, visit Behr.com. That’s B-e-h-r.com.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: So you’ve got some pretty cool tips on how to keep the flies away from our picnics.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and this is an interesting one and an organic one. And it tends to help you out in the long run if you follow it.

    TOM: Alright.

    LESLIE: So if you’ve got those flies and they’re bothering you in the yard, even in your just little picnic area, just a quick outdoor dining session, keep a dish of some fresh basil on your table. Whether you’re cooking out or just sitting there and having your meal. And even if you think about keeping other potted basil around the yard or growing your own fresh basil, this’ll really do the trick. It repels those insects away. And then, when you’re next making your fantastic dish of your secret pasta recipe, you can use the basil in there. So it helps everyone out.

    TOM: There you go. 888-666-3974. Call us now with your home repair or home improvement question at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. You could be the caller we choose for today’s prize giveaway. We’ve got a Quick Clips Moulding Installation System by Focal Point, worth 275 bucks. It’s pretty cool because it’s a worry-free way to install crown moulding and there’s no mitering involved. You could win it if you call us now at 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Lloyd in California listens to The Money Pit on Discovery Channel Radio. And you’ve got a water problem. What’s going on?

    LLOYD: Hi. Yeah, I’m getting ready to do a bathroom remodel and the problem I’ve had in the past is that if someone turns on the sink or flushes the toilet, then the water changes temperatures in the shower. And I was wondering what I can do to fix that?

    LESLIE: And you’ve already gotten tired of all the pranks on every family member.

    LLODY: (chuckling) Exactly

    TOM: Lloyd, that’s actually a very common problem. And what you need is a pressure-balanced valve. What a pressure-balanced valve does is … what happens when you turn hot or cold water on, you steal from one side of the equation. But what a pressure balancing system does it makes sure that the mix that you’ve set, the same amount of cold and hot stay the same no matter what happens to the flow in the house. So while the flow will go down at the shower head, the mix of the temperature of the water will stay the same. Do you follow me?

    LLOYD: Yes. Is that an extra valve that goes in or is that part of the …?

    TOM: It’s a type of shower valve. So you basically would have to replace the current shower diverter valve with a pressure-balance valve. Most of the new ones today are pressure-balanced. But you can definitely have one installed in an older shower.

    LLOYD: OK, so I just need to look for that on the … on the fixture itself.

    TOM: Yeah, if you hire a plumber, you tell him you need a pressure balance valve; they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about. It maintains that balance between hot and cold regardless of how much water pressure you have in the pipes.

    LLOYD: Oh, that’d be great.

    TOM: OK, Lloyd?

    LESLIE: Then, to play a prank, you’ll just have to throw a bucket of cold water over that shower edge. (laughing)

    LLOYD: Oh that … that’ll be the new way to do it.

    TOM: (laughing) There you go. Lloyd, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT and for listening to The Money Pit on Discovery Channel Radio.

    LESLIE: In Florida, Steve finds The Money Pit on WCOA. How can we help you?

    STEVE: Hey, I just redid my bathroom in the basement. It’s a half basement; maybe four feet deep.

    TOM: OK.

    STEVE: There’s a block wall and the paneling was right up against it. If I added (inaudible) insulation foam inside the block, would that add an R-factor (ph) or would it be worth my trouble?

    TOM: Well, if it’s below grade, you probably don’t need to put that much insulation in there. It’s better to use a bat insulation along those walls. That’s what they do in the new homes that are constructed to the current model energy code. It’s sort of a silver-face bat insulation that covers the entire wall. You want to be careful putting anything directly against the foundation like that because you could be asking for troubles with mold and moisture and things like that.

    LESLIE: Well, because moisture’s going to wick right through that concrete whether the foam is in it or not and then that’s going to go right to your paneling.

    STEVE: That’s what I want to know … I … going to keep the water out from the outside and I wanted to know … that’s a good idea. Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Bob in Ohio is looking to do some work on his windows. How can we help?

    BOB: Hi. I have a rental home. It’s about built in the mid-70s. And the builder must have used some kind of a composite board in the windowsills and they’re starting to deteriorate. What … what’s involved in ripping out a windowsill and putting it in without disturbing the plaster too much?

    TOM: Do you have a window trim around this? Or is it basically plaster on all … on the sides and the top and just one window sill at the bottom?

    BOB: That’s correct. Plaster all around and a windowsill on the bottom.

    TOM: OK. So the secret here is to do this very carefully. You probably have a piece of what’s called apron under the windowsill. And you need to remove the apron. And then, the easiest way to do this is with a reciprocating saw or saws awl because it helps to get under the windowsill and be able to cut the nails that are there to loosen it up. Because this way, you have less prying and wiggling and jiggling and less chance that you’re going to mess up that spackled edge.

    So I would say, pull out … pull off the apron first, then try to free up as many nails as you can. You might want to take a utility knife and cut the edge where the jamb – the side jamb of the plaster wall – meets the window sill, so that you have sort of a clean edge for it break there and see if you can work that out.

    But now, you mentioned, Bob, that these are composite window sills. If they’re composite, then I presume …

    LESLIE: They wouldn’t be breaking down.

    TOM: Yeah, they wouldn’t be rotting. So is it just a discoloring issue?

    BOB: Oh, no, they’re coming apart. They’re … like they’re flaking apart.

    TOM: Oh, OK.

    BOB: Forty years of moisture, I guess, in the windows, running down onto the windowsill, laying there.

    TOM: Alright, because Leslie and I are probably thinking the same thing. Why aren’t you painting them? And you’re saying they’re physically deteriorating so you have to remove them. Well, that’s the best way to do that.

    Now, after you get the window sill out, if there’s repairs to be done – because inevitably, you’ll probably have a little bit of spackle repair there – make that first and then assemble the new windowsill last.

    BOB: OK, and what … now, I won’t be able to get in there and nail. Would I … do I use liquid nails or something to hold it in?

    TOM: No. Certainly you could get in there and nail. Basically, you slide the new windowsill in, you draw up some nails on a slight angle – sort of towards the glass, so that you catch it in a couple of different places, and then you put the apron – the new apron – back up underneath it and tack that into the jamb under the window. And you’ll be able to support it just fine.

    BOB: Well, there’s got to be some plastic work, too, because the plaster is deteriorating (inaudible).

    TOM: Well, you know, Bob, the three most expensive words in home improvement – ‘might as well.’ (laughing)

    BOB: Might as well, exactly. And your program is well-named, too – ‘Money Pit.’ (laughing)

    TOM: Alright, Bob. Well, hopefully, we’ve made yours a little bit less of a money pit today.


    LESLIE: Theresa in South Carolina has a very good question. I’ll let you word it for us. Tell us.

    THERESA: Hi. I have a new house and I wanted to make some improvements on the interior and exterior, landscaping everything. And my husband’s concerned about spending too much money in it because we’re going to be leaving in three years. We’re in the … he’s in the military.

    TOM: Does your husband think you’re a serial renovator, Theresa?

    THERESA: Yes, I think I am, actually. (laughing) Because every time I’ve been painting rooms and as soon as I finish painting a room then I want to do something else. (laughing) I just kind of want to make it more homey, more my home.

    LESLIE: Well, especially since you’re moving so often.

    TOM: Yeah, exactly. I mean if you’re moving around a lot, you do want to make it feel more comfortable. And I don’t blame you. And the things that you’re doing, first of all, A, the painting and the wallpaper are not that expensive. Doesn’t have really much of a return on investment. As long as it remains fairly neutral, it’s not going to take away from the sale. It’s when you get really crazy with dramatic decorating that you love but somebody else could hate, that that detracts from the value. Landscaping, however, always adds to the value and always adds to the value way in excess of what it costs. So that kind of thing is really good for you to do.

    How old is this house?

    THERESA: It is brand new. We just moved into it in July.

    TOM: Ah, well then you need a lot … you need a lot of fixing up because right now it’s probably stark white. And Leslie, I know how you hate white.

    LESLIE: I hate white paint.

    TOM: But it’s a canvas. Think of it as a canvas that you can paint.

    LESLIE: And don’t forget, think about flooring. If there’s a carpeting in there that you don’t like or it’s a color that you just don’t find inviting, you don’t have to replace that carpeting. You can put a throw rug over a fully carpeted rug – over a fully carpeted floor – which will still add warmth and personality without spending a ton of money.

    TOM: And could be portable if you have to move.

    THERESA: (inaudible) Definitely. So there is no … I guess … is there a magic, maximum number of money I should spend on the landscaping? Because I mean it can get pretty pricey, from what I’ve seen.

    TOM: Well, I mean what kind of things are you thinking about doing? I mean do you have a sprinkler system?

    THERESA: No, we don’t.

    TOM: Are you thinking about putting one in?

    THERESA: I wasn’t thinking about the sprinkler system but I was thinking about, you know, putting in some nice mulching and shrubbery and …

    TOM: Yeah, all that sort of thing is good to do and not terribly expensive. And even as …

    LESLIE: You know, think about when you’re purchasing any of your shrubbery or your trees or anything that you might be planting, deal with a nursery that offers you some sort of warranty. I know when we had some arborvitaes planted in the backyard, within the first six months, one of the trees just was not doing well and had completely died. And thankfully, we made sure that the nursery that we worked with had, within a certain time frame, if the tree doesn’t make it, they’ll replace it. So always look into some sort of warranty that the nursery might have as far as – whether it’s your fault or their fault or it’s just not watered properly – that they’ll replace it.

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

    LESLIE: Alright, Money Pit listeners. What are the 25 most architecturally important houses in America? Well, if you’re thinking the White House, you might be in for a surprise.

    TOM: Coming up, we turn to the pages of Fine Homebuilding to learn which homes made the cut and how they may have inspired the design of your own house, next.

    (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: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. The number is 1-888-MONEY-PIT. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Well, Leslie, the Center Hall Colonial, the Cape Cod, the cottage style house – they’re all familiar styles to builders and homeowners alike. But have you ever stopped to think about which famous house may have inspired the look of your own house?

    LESLIE: Well, the folks at Fine Homebuilding magazine spent the past year asking architects, builders and home enthusiasts the seemingly simple question: what are the 25 most important houses in America? So joining us with the rundown and to tell us why certain homes made the cut is Kevin Ireton, the magazine’s editor.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, guys. How you doing today?

    TOM: We are excellent. And I was looking at your list of the 25 most important homes in America and I see some that I recognize; some that I’ve actually been to. But I want to start talking about what you guys have named the country’s first serial remodeler. Thomas Jefferson. Who would have thought (laughing) Thomas Jefferson was a serial remodeler? Why was Thomas Jefferson so into remodeling?

    KEVIN: Well, believe it or not, he worked on his house for 40 years and never really finished it.

    LESLIE: Was it redoing rooms or constantly changing things? Or adding on?

    KEVIN: A little bit of everything. He … the fact is, he had … he started the house in 1768. Twenty years later, he was about finished when he came back from Paris and tore the roof off and added a whole other story. So he just … he was interested in design. He was a huge fan of the 16th century architect, Andrea Palladio. And he just constantly was tinkering with his house and adding on and trying new things.

    LESLIE: Man, he was ahead of his time. He loves to design. That’s fantastic.

    KEVIN: He would have been a Fine Homebuilding reader if he had (laughing) … if it had been around back then. He just loved … he had a passion for architecture and design.

    LESLIE: So Kevin, how did you guys come up with these 25 homes? Are they attractive? Are they important? Were they just ridiculously designed? What made them make the cut?

    KEVIN: Well, we argued a lot. (laughing) We asked everybody that we met for the past year, ‘What are the 25 most important houses in America?’ We got lots of people that emailed us their lists. And then, as I say, we argued among ourselves. The main criteria that we used was whether the particular house had a major influence on other houses. Sometimes that was a good influence; sometimes it was a bad influence. But most of the houses we picked have affected a lot of other houses that came after them.

    TOM: Well, absolutely. And you know, let’s talk, for example, about manufactured homes. Now, I think that some people tend to think that a manufactured home or a prefab home is somehow inferior to a home that’s say, stick built on the lot the way most homes in America are. But actually, I had some more modern experience with prefabricated homes and found out that quite the contrary was true because they controlled the waste, they controlled the quality of the lumber; they’re actually able to build a better house. And you have, on your list, really, the one … the most famous kit house in America. And that is the Sears kit house from 1908, when Sears and Roebuck was actually … one of the catalog items was actually a house. You could order a kit house from Sears.

    LESLIE: For 35 cents.

    TOM: Pretty much. (laughing) And you know something else, Kevin and Leslie, in the years I spent as a home inspector, I used to find Sears kit houses. And you know how you knew you had one? Because the beams were all numbered, like an erector set. (laughing) They were actually stamped … they were actually stamped with the names of the parts.

    KEVIN: Those houses came with a 75-page manual that included the instructions, ‘Carpenters must not cut this material.’ (laughing)

    LESLIE: Everything is precut, we mean it. Can you imagine? It was like the IKEA of the time. And if people have a hard time putting together a sideboard, imagine a house.

    TOM: (laughing) Exactly.

    Hey, another house, on here, that I’ve been to is the famous Frank Lloyd Wright house, Fallingwater. That actually has an interesting story behind it. That was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for … wasn’t it a department store baron?

    KEVIN: Edgar Kaufmann in … out of Pittsburgh.

    TOM: Right. Exactly. And I remember the story about Frank Lloyd Wright in that he had been given this assignment by Mr. Kaufmann and he procrastinated, procrastinated, procrastinated. And then, I believe, it was the night before the client was due in to see his drawings that he, basically, ordered his assistants to sharpen 25 pencils and kept feeding him new pencils all night long while he actually produced what we know as Fallingwater today out of whole cloth, overnight.

    KEVIN: I’ve heard that same story so it has to be true. (laughing)

    TOM: Well, it has to be true. And actually, I think I heard it at the actual …

    LESLIE: (laughing) And I told both of you.

    TOM: Yeah. I actually heard it at the museum that accompanies Fallingwater. So for those that don’t know what Fallingwater is, Kevin, why don’t you describe it?

    KEVIN: Fallingwater is built in the woods of Eastern Pennsylvania on a creek … overhanging a creek called Bear Run Creek. And it is a … it is a modern house of horizontal lines and concrete cantilevers …

    LESLIE: It’s beautiful.

    KEVIN: … that literally overhang this creek. And we put it on the list because … I mean it is an amazing example of modern design, but also of a house that really fits its site. It really … it was inspired by the rocks of the creek and really settles into this site in an amazing way.

    TOM: And they just completed a major restoration of Fallingwater not too long ago. So if you’re in the area of Eastern Pennsylvania, it’s definitely a sight to see.

    Kevin Ireton, editor of Fine Homebuilding. Kevin, thanks again for stopping by The Money Pit.

    You want more information, you want to check out the latest issue, go to FineHomebuilding.com.

    LESLIE: Alright. So longer days and warmer nights mean that many of you are ending up in your backyard for at least one of your meals. But while you’re chomping on your burgers, many little bugs might be chomping on you and making a meal of you yourself.

    TOM: So how do you keep those nasty mosquitoes from ruining you backyard fun? We’ll tell you, right after this.

    (promo/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: Welcome back to The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    So Leslie, you know, in my area, the mosquito population makes eating outside in the evening almost impossible.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) They’re the …

    TOM: Almost impossible.

    LESLIE: … uninvited guests.

    TOM: I have to surround myself with citronella candles and bug zappers and these propane mosquito sucking things like …

    LESLIE: (chuckling) You just like the sound.

    TOM: … like (inaudible) the zone. The zone. (laughing)

    LESLIE: Well, there’s a couple of things you can do to keep those mosquitoes at bay. And for some reason, they love me. And my mom says it’s because I have sweet blood. I disagree. I’ve heard that it’s a vitamin B deficiency. That if you take vitamin B, it’s not something that you can detect but, apparently, it emits a smell off of your skin that you won’t notice but they don’t like. So think about taking some vitamins. Plus it’s good for you.

    And then, there’s some things you can do around the yard. Make sure you replace all standing water at least once a week. You could do it more if you feel motivated. And this would include birdbaths, ponds and any kiddie swimming pools that you might have around the yard. And make sure that you remove any unneeded vegetation or trash from around any standing water sources that cannot be changed, dumped or removed; like that giant, in-ground swimming pool I dream of everyday.

    TOM: Excellent advice. There’s nothing I hate worse than getting attacked by bugs while I’m trying to enjoy a summer barbecue in our backyard.

    888-666-3974. Call us right now if you have a home improvement question and also if you’d like to win a great prize. Because we’re giving away a crown moulding kit from Focal Point products, worth 275 bucks. Easy to do, too.

    LESLIE: Yeah, it’s a great prize; especially if you can’t deal with all that mitering and measuring. And you know with crown moulding it’s expensive and if you make one wrong cut it could ruin your day and your budget. But it’s not going to be a problem if you’ve got the Quick Clips Moulding Installation System by Focal Point. It’s worth $275 but it’s going to be totally free for one lucky caller whose question we answer on air. And it’s going to be enough materials to do crown moulding in a 16×16 room. So that should cover just about any room in your house, folks.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Ray in Rhode Island finds The Money Pit on WPRO. And you’ve got something going on with your concrete stairs. Tell us about it.

    RAY: Yes, well, I’ve got a poured concrete front step. It’s about four steps going up. And I’ve got a crack right down the middle. It’s probably, you know, over the last years, I’ve been kind of procrastinating on …

    TOM: OK.

    RAY: … fixing it. It’s getting pretty wide. And I was wondering what’s probably the best way to alleviate that problem. Or is it going to keep cracking or should I just blow it up and try and get the whole thing done again? (laughing)

    TOM: Well, don’t do anything that … quite that drastic, Ray. The best way to repair that crack is with a silicone caulk. But I can give you a trick of the trade to help you hide the appearance of the crack. And that is … what you could do is if you had a masonry drill bit and you found an inconspicuous place – like say on the side of that stair or someplace where you’re not going to see this – if you were to drill a couple of holes into the side of the stair and collect the concrete dust that comes out as you do that, what you do is then you put the caulk into the crack and then you take some of that dust and you cover the top of the caulk while it’s wet with the concrete dust.

    RAY: Ah.

    TOM: It’ll blend in perfectly with the step around it.

    RAY: Very good.

    TOM: You understand?

    RAY: I do.

    TOM: Alright. There you go, Ray. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: Another satisfied customer.

    TOM: Absolutely. You get more than you pay for when you call 888-MONEY-PIT. (laughing) OK, Leslie. Who’s next?

    LESLIE: Alright. Now, we have Amanda in Tennessee who’s got a question about microwaves. What can we do for you?

    AMANDA: Well, I’d always heard the rumor that if you stand too close to a microwave it’s bad for you while it’s running.

    TOM: Hmm. And you’re wondering if it’s true and you think we know the answer? (laughing)

    LESLIE: Well I know it’s bad to carve your mom’s name into it and then blame your mom. Because I did that when I was a kid. (laughing) I scratched in ‘Mom’ with one of the house keys and when somebody – namely, my dad – walked by and said, ‘Who did this’ and I said, ‘It says Mom.’ And he’s like, ‘If it was mom she would write Pauline.’ I was like, ‘Ugh.’

    TOM: Aw, busted. (laughing)

    LESLIE: Busted.

    TOM: Well, Amanda, the truth is that there … it really is not unsafe to be close to the microwave oven. I mean these things are all tested and certified so that there’s no microwave leakage. In fact, the FDA is aware of the fact that there are rumors (chuckling) that there could be allegations of radiation injury from microwave ovens. But according to the FDA, there’s actually never been one actually proven. The injuries from microwave ovens, that they’ve found, are the same injuries that you would have with any other cooking surface; like hot food and splatters and stuff like that. So, technically, you can’t get hurt. You can’t get radiated by standing too close to the oven.

    But my question is why would you want to? You know, I mean it’s a watched pot never boils. Don’t stare at the food while it’s cooking. Just walk away and come back when it’s done.

    AMANDA: Thank you.

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

    LESLIE: Linda in Rhode Island finds The Money Pit on WPRO. And you’re thinking about a drop ceiling. Tell us about it.

    LINDA: Yes, I’m looking to install a drop ceiling, acoustical ceiling in my basement. And I was wondering if you had any tips or ideas on how to do that in the most painless manner.

    LESLIE: Well, actually, drop ceilings … you know, it doesn’t have to be those foamy looking acoustic tiles anymore. There’s some great new advancements in that; particularly by a company called Armstrong. And if you go to their website – Armstrong.com – you can see a variety of different tiles. So if you’re looking for something different, that’s a good place to start.

    TOM: And the insulation itself is fairly modular. You know, the secret is simply getting that first track up around the outside of the walls. And laser levels have come so far, today, that that really is the easiest way to do it. With a laser level, you can very easily get a level line all the way around the wall so that you get that track in the first place. And after that, Linda, it’s just a matter of snapping the whole thing together. It’s as easy as putting together LEGO blocks.

    LINDA: Great. Sounds like it’s a weekend adventure for me.

    TOM: Yeah, well …

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Well, enjoy it.

    TOM: That’s right. But hopefully, one you won’t get lost on.

    LINDA: Good. Thank you.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Linda. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, listening to us on WPRO in Providence, Rhode Island.

    LESLIE: Jerry in Las Vegas is a gambling man. You want to paint something without priming. What can we do for you?

    JERRY: I bought a whole bunch of siding. It’s been primed. But my question is it’s been sitting now – but it’s been covered – and am I running into a situation where I should re-prime it? Because you know, that’s a lot of expense.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, if it’s been primed once, I think that you’re probably OK as long as that priming hasn’t been exposed and has worn off. You know, the nice thing about primer is that it’s designed to stick really well, but it doesn’t stand up to any kind of UV deterioration. So as long as it’s not been exposed to the sun and that siding is, you know, dried out before you paint it, I think the fact that it’s primed already is great. And I don’t think you have to put a second primer coat on it.

    JERRY: Yeah, it’s been under heavy tarps.

    TOM: Yeah, I think you’re good to go.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Oh, it’s good, I think.

    TOM: Yeah.

    JERRY: OK. I should be alright, then.

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

    Up next, we reach into our email bag with a couple of questions about common projects around the house that you might have considered taking on.

    LESLIE: Well, could you hang shelves or install hardwood floors? You probably can do it yourself, but you don’t have to do it alone. We’ll tell you how, step by step, right after the break.

    (theme song)

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

    TOM: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show, standing by at 1-888-MONEY-PIT 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. We never leave the phone. We’re always here for you. Just pick up the phone and call us at 888-666-3974. Truthfully, if we’re not in the studio, you will get a live call screener who will take your question and we will call you back.

    But there is yet another way to reach out to us and that’s by logging on to MoneyPit.com and clicking on Ask Tom and Leslie. And that’s what Paul did, from Blaine, Washington.

    LESLIE: That’s right. Paul writes: ‘How do you hang heavy glass shelves in a three-walled nook?’ Well, that sounds like a nice little area.

    TOM: That’s different than a two-walled nook and a four-walled nook, right?

    LESLIE: (chuckling) That’s correct. A four-walled nook would be a box and you probably wouldn’t put a glass shelf in there.

    TOM: (chuckling) You’re probably right.

    LESLIE: But we’ve got some answers.

    TOM: (overlapping voices) So how do you hang it? I’ve never hung a glass shelf, I have to admit.

    LESLIE: Well, I would say, depending on how heavy it is and what you’re planning on putting in there, I would consider making like a nailing ledge of maybe 1×2 or depending on the thickness and the weight of the shelf, adjust my lumber stock choice accordingly. But I would create a U-shaped ridge that would sit along all three walls so that once that’s installed, the shelf could sit on top of that. And make sure that when you’re putting in those little nailing ledges, that you go directly into your studs; especially if the shelf weighs a ton and then you’re going to put some stuff on it.

    And if that’s too kitschy for you, don’t forget, you can paint those nailers to make them blend into the wall so you don’t even see them and seal up everything so you’re not even going to notice that they’re there. Or you could even get some long metal rods and drill some holes into the studs and hammer those into the studs so that they go in the full thickness of the stud.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: And then come out the depth of the shelf. And that might give you a more modern look.

    TOM: You know what might also be nice to plan, when you’re doing glass shelves, is the lighting. Because that’s the big advantage; the light goes through the shelves.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: So maybe think about how you’re going to light that – whether it’s from above or below. While you’re doing all that work, run the light at the same time. And then you’ll have the shelves installed, they’ll be solid and you’ll have some good lighting for it.

    LESLIE: Sounds like Paul’s got some collectibles he wants to showcase.

    Alright. We’ve got another one here from Barbara in Georgia, who writes: ‘How hard is it to install hardwood floors?’

    TOM: Hmm. Well, I guess it depends. Barbara, if you’re talking about installing, you know, raw oak floors, that’s pretty hard work. I mean it’s not a do-it-yourself project; at least not the first time out. However …

    LESLIE: You know, I think a lot of people confuse hardwood and laminates and Pergo and they just call everything hardwood.

    TOM: Well, that’s true. Hardwood, as opposed to hard surface. But you know, if you’re going to do engineered hardwood, that’s easy because it’s kind of locked together. Engineered hardwood, of course, is where the hardwood is laminated in different layers; kind of like plywood is, except the top layer is the real hardwood and it’s very, very durable. That’s pretty easy to do. And I think the prefinished hardwood is not too terribly hard to do, as well, because they’ve just gotten so much better at making it easy for you to install.

    I would say that the original hardwood floor, where you have to use special nailers, that’s kind of a tough job. But the regular hardwood floor that’s prefinished today, or the … or the engineered, is not difficult. Definitely do it yourself. And what I like about prefinished today is they all have the aluminum oxide surfaces, which is an incredibly tough finish that’ll have that floor looking great for many, many, many years to come.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and think about how proud you’re going to feel when you’re done with that beautiful project and you can tell all your friends, Barbara, ‘I did that myself.’

    TOM: Well, this time of year, you’re probably thinking about ways that you can keep your house cool and comfortable. Guess what? It doesn’t always involve a big investment. And that is the topic of today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: That’s right. I think a lot of people think over-cooling is the way to keep your house nice and comfortable. But a home doesn’t need to be chilled all day, day in and day out, to feel comfortable in the summer months. So to save energy and money, make sure you use an Energy Star qualified programmable thermostat. And this thermostat will allow you to preset temperatures to automatically adjust to a more comfortable temperature when you’re at home and when you’re not at home. And while you’re away, you can also block out heat by keeping blinds or curtains closed during the day. So keep that heat out and stay cool all summer long.

    TOM: A new clock setback thermostat is always a great investment.

    Well, coming up next week on The Money Pit, we’re going to hear from our friend, Kevin O’Connor, host of This Old House, with some great tips and advice that may apply to your house, whether it’s old or new. 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)


    (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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