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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 2 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 solving that do-it-yourself dilemma? Call us right now. 888-666-3974. We are like your handy home improvement neighbors; except we know better than to lend you our power tools.

    LESLIE: (laughing) Yeah, we write our names on them so we always get them back.

    TOM: Hey, would you like to know the secrets to the best lawn ever? Coming up in this hour of the program, we’re going to talk to consumer reports. They’re going to spill the beans. Their annual lawn care report is out, right now, with the lowdown on the best mowers and trimmers. And we’re going to have some details on that, later this hour.

    LESLIE: Yeah. We’re going to have the guy from Consumer Reports who gets to test out all of that new, cool stuff regarding any sort of lawn care. Any product that’s out there. Imagine what it’s like to have that job; trying out all those fun things. Yeah, it sounds really fun. Well, he’s going to tell us what he likes best so you know exactly what to do for your lawn.

    TOM: And we’ve got a Weather Channel Storm Tracker radio to give away. It will automatically alert you to weather threats. It’s worth 40 bucks and can come in mighty handy no matter where you live. If your power goes out, you can just crank this thing up and know what’s going on. It’s a great prize. It’s going to go to one caller we chose from this hour’s program. So call now. 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Richard in Texas has a sink that has issues. Hopefully, we can get to the bottom of that. What’s going on?

    RICHARD: I’ve never seen a problem like this. In my house, in the master bathroom – it’s on an exterior wall – the drain always seems to clog up with some black – I don’t want to say – it’s tarry-looking but it’s not tar; it’s more like sludge – black sludge.

    TOM: Yeah. Is this the bathroom, Richard, that you guys use all the time?

    RICHARD: No, it’s not.

    TOM: Hmm. Because I’ve seen that black sludge that you’re talking about. It usually does get caught in the trap; usually around the area where the lever is to work the stopper. Kind of acts as a … as an obstruction there. And generally, it’s a combination of soap deposits and hair; other things that get trapped in the drain. It’s sort of …

    LESLIE: That sounds gross.

    TOM: Yeah, it’s pretty gross. It feeds on itself. And every once in a while – I know with sinks that I’ve seen this happen to – you have to take the lever out that operates the stopper and you have to clean it out. So it’s not an uncommon condition. You may just be seeing it for the first time, Richard, but I’ve seen this condition many, many times. It is generally soap scum that causes it.

    RICHARD: So by taking the trap off, cleaning it and the lever for the stopper, that should get it to stop?

    TOM: Yep. That’s going to get it … yeah, you’ve got to clean it properly, probably once a year, then it’ll stop building up.

    LESLIE: Calling from Chicago-land is Arlene who finds The Money Pit on WYLL. And you’ve got a flooring question. What can we do for you?

    ARLENE: I have carpeting. I want to pick it up and bare the industrial (ph) tile under it. I just needed to know what do I need to do in order to put down some floor.

    LESLIE: What kind of floor do you want to put down.

    ARLENE: Mmm, oak. I’m not … I’m not decided as yet. Maybe oak or any kind of those floors that you can put over tiles. I don’t know.

    TOM: What kind of subfloor do you have, Arlene? Is this going over a wood subfloor or is it going over concrete? Is that vinyl tile on top of a wood …?

    ARLENE: Vinyl … yes, vinyl tile on top of concrete.

    TOM: On top of concrete. OK, that’s important information because that’s going to impact the type of wood flooring that we recommend.

    LESLIE: Yeah, with a concrete subfloor, even though it’s underneath that vinyl tile, you’re still going to get a certain amount of moisture and a certain amount of wicking. So going with an actual hardwood, like you might have in mind with an oak, might not be the best idea because that moisture could cause that hardwood floor to warp and twist and rot out, which you don’t want. But you can go with something called an engineered hardwood, which is built in the same way that plywood is; it’s many different layers applied together to create a structurally stable wood floor. So it’s engineered but it’s also wood with the topmost layer being that wood surface that you like. And that’s a great application. But there’s some other options as well.

    TOM: Yeah, you could go with a laminate floor, which is going to be less expensive than engineered hardwood. And with a laminate floor, Arlene, you’ll have lots and lots of choices on which way you can go with a pattern. It could look like wood – either a modern, sharp, you know, oak hardwood or it could like an old, distressed hardwood; or it could like a stone pattern or a tile pattern or even a vinyl pattern. But it’s really durable. Laminate floors are very, very tough. It’s one of the most durable …

    LESLIE: Well, they’re made from plastic, right?

    TOM: Yeah, it’s one of the most durable surfaces out there. And it’s easy to install because all of the joints now are locked together; it’s kind of like putting together a puzzle when you drop everything together. You can do that yourself if you can handle just some basic power tools to cut into the edge. It doesn’t have to get glued to the floor, either. It pretty much just floats right on top.

    So there are all the options you can consider for this floor. And in terms of that vinyl floor that’s down there now, no need with any of these to remove that. You can leave this in place and go right on top of it.

    LESLIE: Shawna in Oklahoma’s up next and she’s a prime example of how one home improvement project can lead to another. What can we do for you?

    SHAWNA: We just replaced our sewer line over the weekend. And we had to dig down under our air conditioning unit out back. And now we know we have to replace our air conditioning unit.

    TOM: Uh-oh.

    SHAWNA: Because it’s leaking. And I was wanting to know what is the best type of air conditioning unit to buy.

    TOM: Well, there is good news. And that is that the air conditioning units today have never been more efficient. The ones that are Energy Star rated today, are going to give you more BTUs of cooling power for less electrical expense. The other piece of this is that if you buy an Energy Star rated air conditioning compressor, you’re going to qualify for a federal energy tax credit and actually be able to get some money back on your income taxes after you … after you put it on.

    So the secret here is to look at the Energy Star rating and to buy the best unit that you can afford based on the rating so that you use the least amount of electricity to deliver the most cooling power. OK, Shawna?

    SHAWNA: OK. And also, I need to replace my thermostat in my house …

    TOM: OK.

    SHAWNA: … because it kicks on and off, on and off.

    TOM: Well, that may not be the thermostat. That could be a problem with the …

    LESLIE: It could even be the location of the thermostat.

    TOM: Or it could be a control circuit issue. So when you (ph) put in a setback thermostat so that you can have the heat or the air conditioning automatically come on or off when it’s needed throughout the day. Because, you know, just – especially in the winter time, for those in the colder parts of the country – putting in a heat setback thermostat will actually knock about 10 percent off that heating cost.

    LESLIE: Jim in Florida’s up next. What’s on your mind?

    JIM: You know, I received some information in the mail … just a photo of a … of a vent that was powered by solar energy. And I didn’t know whether this was bogus or is there such a thing. But it was … it seemed a little interesting.

    TOM: Is it an attic vent, Jim?

    JIM: Yeah, an attic vent.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you, you don’t really need any power for an attic vent. If an attic vent is installed properly – if your roof is properly vented – it basically should be open all the time. So it doesn’t need to come on or off. The best venting system is one where you have a continuous ridge vent – that’s the vent that goes down the peak of the roof – matched with a continuous soffit vent, which is the overhang of the roof. And the reason that’s important is if you live in a warm climate, the air – as it blows over the roof – is going to depressurize at that ridge and suck out all of that hot air from your attic. And if you live in a cooler climate, in the winter time, it’s going to do the same thing except it’s going to pull out the moist air.

    So those two vents work hand in hand to properly vent your attic. So there’s no miracle cure for this. It’s simply passive ventilation that’s installed properly – using convection in mine (ph) – and it basically does the job for you. You don’t need any electricity – solar powered or otherwise – to run it.

    LESLIE: Joe in Kansas is next who finds The Money Pit on KLWN. And what can we do for you today?

    JOE: I have a cement driveway and we bought this home a few years ago and the driveway was already in. It’s a fairly … I think (ph) fairly old driveway but it’s nice and level. Seems structurally sound underneath but it’s got some cracks that I have to fill every couple of years and some chipping and pitting on the top surface. Is there any way for me to resurface this thing without tearing it clear out and replacing it?

    TOM: Well, with a concrete driveway, the only patching compound that really works well is epoxy.

    JOE: Uh-huh.

    TOM: And if you use an epoxy patching compound, you will get two to three years out of … wear and tear on that. In terms of the cracks – generally, we recommend a silicon caulk for those. And do this on a warm day so it flows in there nicely and seals it tightly. If you do that, you shouldn’t really be replacing it every year. If you use something besides silicone, it will tend to shrink and dry out and have to be replaced more frequently. But if you do it on a dry day and the crack is cleaned out, you ought to get several years out of a good silicone filling of any of those cracks. The epoxy patching compounds can be painted on or troweled on. It will create a new surface but remember, once you get into the painting realm, you’re going to have to repaint. So you really have to pick your poison here, Joe.

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

    LESLIE: OK, Money Pit listeners. Do you want to know how spending just one buck a month can help save you a $1,500 home repair?

    TOM: I’m sure you do. We’re going to tell you how, next.

    (promo/theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is brought to you by BEHR From Home, where you can select from over 3,700 paint colors and order samples online for home delivery. 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 Leslie, you’ve got to love this math. Spend a buck, save 1,500 bucks.

    LESLIE: Well, it’s really $12, right?

    TOM: Well, that’s true. (laughing) That’s true. Technically, it’s true. It’s really $12. Because that buck is going to go for the cost of guess what? A brand new filter for your heating and cooling system. If you have a forced air system, there is a filter that is in the return air duct somewhere; could be …

    LESLIE: Yeah, most people are like, ‘Filter? Oh, yeah!’ (laughing)

    TOM: ‘Oh, I didn’t know it had a filter.’ (laughing) Well, it’s actually … if you have a traditional forced air system, you have your furnace with the blower at the bottom and then on top of that is the coil for the air conditioner. Usually, near that blower, there’s a spot for the filter. It costs about a dollar and you need to replace it once a month. Not just in the summer but all year long when the system is running. Why? Because that air that goes through the furnace up into the air conditioning coil is dirty. It gets dusty. And if the coil gets clogged, it’s going to cause the compressor on the outside to jam and not work very well. And at the least it’s going to cost you more money than it should to cool your house. And at the worst, it’s going to blow that compressor and it’s going to cost you $1,500 or more to replace. So spend a dollar a month on a filter and avoid a major compressor repair or replacement.

    LESLIE: Alright. Well, we’ve got something you don’t have to spend a dollar for. You just have to listen to your favorite home improvement program, The Money Pit, and call in and ask a question and get your question answered on air to be eligible for this great prize. We’ve got the Weather Channel Storm Tracker by Vector, which is a weather alert radio and flashlight. And what it is, it’s about 40 bucks – let me tell you that first – but yours for free, don’t forget. And what it does is it gives you an automatic alert of any sort of hazardous weather conditions that might be going on in your area so you know best how to prepare for what’s happening. And it also has a unit on it that allows you to charge a cell phone, which is a great thing to have around the house. So good thing and it’s yours for free so call in now.

    TOM: 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Alice from Chicago’s up next and you’ve got something that happened to your countertop. What’s going on?

    ALICE: Well, I had a very hot pan that was placed on top of my white Formica top.

    TOM: Oh, no.

    ALICE: But it’s … the top is 20 years old.

    TOM: It’s time for a new one, Alice.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Yeah. You couldn’t have happened to have a better reason to now get a new countertop.

    ALICE: Alright.

    TOM: Yeah. To try to take the burn marks out of a laminate is almost impossible. If it’s slightly singed on the surface, you could use a rubbing compound and try to take some of it out. But the colored layer is not that thick. And so, what you …

    LESLIE: Yeah, the laminate itself is like an eighth of an inch; it’s so tiny.

    TOM: Right. But what you’re seeing is a chemical reaction between the laminate and the pan. When it heats up like that, it turns a darker color and, really, it’s not repairable. The good news is, Alice, that if you do replace this with one of the more modern materials – like solid surfacing material – if this ever happens again, you can use a … you can abrade that burn mark out of it or that knife mark out of it or something of that nature and you can sand it away.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Well, and some of the solid surfacing – like Silestone – is scorch resistant. So that’s always an option to look for. And you know, granite is also scorch resistant, so …

    TOM: So this is fabulous news, Alice. You’re going to get a brand new countertop.

    ALICE: Yes, it is. (laughing) I need a brand new kitchen, though.

    TOM: Well then, they have to get one to match it, you know? Three most expensive words in home improvement: might as well. (laughing) Alright, Alice. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Lindsey in Delaware finds The Money Pit on WDEL and you’ve got a roofing question. How can we help?

    LINDSEY: I have a very flat roof; it’s a 2/12 pitch. And the roof that I put on there 25 years ago was … it was what they call double coverage. It was a roll roofing.

    TOM: Yeah, two layers of roll roofing put opposed to each other. Right.

    LINDSEY: Yeah, in other words, it’s about a four foot sheet that overlaps half and half.

    TOM: Right. Yes.

    LINDSEY: Half sticky. And that worked pretty good. Now, the roofer that I had come to do half of my roof – who has yet to come back, unfortunately –

    TOM: (laughing) Isn’t that typical? (chuckling)

    LINDSEY: And you know what I’m talking about. Like The Money Pit movie?

    TOM: Absolutely.

    LESLIE: Yeah. (laughing)

    LINDSEY: Two weeks, he says. Yeah.

    TOM: Two weeks. (laughing)

    LINDSEY: Anyways, he suggested not to put that kind of roof on, to get a rubber membrane roof because that would … that would last 50 years.

    TOM: Well, I would agree because roll roofing is about the lowest grade roofing you can put on. And roll roofing is either put on with single coverage – which means you basically overlap it by about four inches; these are the wide sheets – or, as you have, Lindsey, double coverage where you’re overlapping it by about every 18 inches. That’s, of course, better than single coverage but, really, a rubber roof would be a much better alternative for that roof and it will last a heck of a lot longer and be a lot more trouble-free than the roll roofing you have on now. So I think that’s good advice. If you can get the guy to come back and do it (chuckling), a rubber roof is the way to go.

    LESLIE: Bob in California listens to The Money Pit on KVML. What are you working on?

    BOB: I’ve got a front door that’s a very nicely finished door – at least it was when it was new – and the door frame and a couple of lights beside the door. And they have …

    TOM: Is it a wood door, Bob?

    BOB: A wooden door.

    TOM: OK.

    BOB: The sunlight has just destroyed it. I mean it is … the finish is peeled and I don’t know if there’s anything out there that has enough UV resistance to …

    LESLIE: There is, actually. Are you looking for a painted look or a stained look?

    BOB: Oh, I’d like a stained look. I’d like a finished look.

    LESLIE: There is actually something from a company called Flood and they’re sold at The Home Depot. And they make a UV-resistant stain and it just came out in nine designer colors; actually, just recently. And what it does is it has a UV resistance in it which helps it to maintain it’s moisture, to not warp and rot and peel and bubble. So it really does a good job at maintaining that look on that wood.

    But if you have anything on there already, you want to make sure you strip it down, get it to a clean surface, allow that to dry really well and then you can apply their UV stain on top of it. And it should do you a good … probably about five years or more on a vertical surface; as far as, you know, a lastability.

    TOM: And the other thing that you can do, Bob, after you get the stain on there is to apply a clear finish. And I’ve found that marine varnish has the best UV resistance because it’s used on wood boats very often. You can pick that up at any marine supply store. So combining a good UV resistant stain and a UV resistant varnish is going to solve that problem.

    LESLIE: Rick in South Carolina’s up next. And what’s going on with your yard?

    RICK: Well, I’ve got a bunch of unwelcome buddies and guests that are under the soil.

    TOM: Are you dealing with moles?

    RICK: Yes, I am.

    TOM: OK. Now, is this just affecting you or is it affecting the whole neighborhood?

    RICK: Appears to be just affecting me, as far as I know. My big concern is we have two dogs …

    TOM: OK.

    RICK: … that I do not want to have a problem with if they … if they would get hold of one, they … of course, they put out the poisons you can get.

    TOM: Yeah.

    RICK: But I’m trying to find out a better way to do that so that, you know, I’m not endangering our animals.

    TOM: Well, the best way to get rid of moles is to get rid of the mole food. And that is generally grubs that are … that are living in the soil. So if you get rid of the grubs, you’ll get rid of the moles. Make the food source go away.

    Now, to protect the pets, you really need to follow the label directions. And Leslie had a suggestion of even extending that.

    LESLIE: Oh, yeah. You know, you really have to be careful because we have a friend who had some pets and they had mole treatment done and unfortunately, the dog ended up developing an illness because of something that was used to treat the lawn to prevent these grubs from occurring. So it’s really important that … you know, usually it says 24 hours. Try to extend it by a couple of days. Give it three days. Keep things off of it for as long as you can; kids, pets. If it says one day, triple it.

    TOM: Alright, Rick? So you get rid of the grubs, you’ll get rid of the moles. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Kevin in New Jersey listens to The Money Pit on the Discovery Radio Network. What can we do for you?

    KEVIN: OK. I have a split-level house. So that means the very first floor – the ground level – is a little bit below grade.

    TOM: OK.

    KEVIN: We call it the nothing room because (laughing) we just don’t know what (laughing) … I mean we don’t know what to do with it, you know?

    TOM: (laughing) OK.

    KEVIN: Halfway up the wall is the … is concrete. And then it’s like a little bit of a shelf and then it goes to sheetrock.

    TOM: Right, uh-huh.

    KEVIN: How can I cover that cinder block up so it just looks nice, you know what I mean?

    TOM: Well, in a situation like that, it’s probably … there’s really two ways to do it. Typically, if you were refinishing a basement room, we would tell you to build a wall in front of it. But in a small area like that, I think it’s OK to attach firring strips to the wall and to actually frame around that wall and then put a drywall over it.

    However, in this case, I would not recommend traditional drywall. I would recommend a product called Dens Armor Plus. The reason for it is because Dens Armor plus has a fiberglass face; as opposed to a paper face. You know, regular drywall has a paper face and that can be mold food.

    KEVIN: Well see, what I want to do is I want to get rid of the shelf look.

    TOM: Alright, if you want to get rid of the shelf look, you have to (inaudible). Here’s how you do that. What you have to do is you have to frame out the wall to be as thick as the block wall below it. So you have to frame out the wood wall to match the thickness of the block wall.

    Now, there’s other consequences of that, Kevin, because what’s going to happen is your window jambs are going to be much deeper. Your door jambs are going to be much deeper. So you have to frame out for that and you know, it’s just going to … it might be a little bit odd, but if you want it to be a continuous flat wall, that’s what you have to do.

    Well, have you ever had lawn envy? You know, that jealousy that sets in (laughing) when you see that everyone else’s lawn in your neighborhood is green and perfect and looks just great.

    LESLIE: Well, our next guest has that lawn that makes all the neighbors go crazy. And he gets to try all of the new mowers and trimmers that are out on the market because he’s the lawn care expert from Consumer Reports and he’s coming up next.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: This portion of The Money Pit is being brought to you by Aprilaire, developers of revolutionary whole-home dehumidification technology. Aprilaire’s professionally-installed Model 1700 whole-home dehumidifier removes just the right amount of moisture for ultimate comfort. And unlike messy portable dehumidifiers that work in just a single room, Aprilaire dehumidifiers work throughout your entire home. For more information, go to Aprilaire.com.

    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.

    So Leslie, what are the secrets to growing the best lawn ever?

    LESLIE: Don’t let me touch it. (laughing)

    TOM: (laughing) That’s right. If you’re Leslie, hire a landscaper. Actually, if you are all thumbs – like my co-host, Leslie – instead of having a green thumb when it comes to caring for your lawn, there are products and tools out there that can help. The only problem is you have to decide which ones work best for you.

    LESLIE: Well, the May 2006 issue of Consumer Reports magazine does it for you. In the magazine’s annual lawn care report, you’re going to find expert advice on how to get the best lawn ever, along with ratings for the top lawn equipment and products. So joining us to break it all down is Peter Sawchuck. He’s the guy at Consumer Reports who gets to try out all the lawn care stuff that there is out there.

    And so, Peter, tell me. Is your lawn the most amazing, beautiful green thing ever?

    PETER: Well, it’s not as good as I’d like it (laughing) but it’s in pretty good shape.

    LESLIE: They’re tough. How do you go about unraveling the mystery? What are the 10 best tips, you think, to a beautiful lawn?

    PETER: Well, we’ve listed, of course, 10 tips. And it really starts with the right grass and then continues on with how much to fertilize and how much to water and goes on to talk about how much you should cut.

    LESLIE: I like that you’re watering advice, it says, ‘Don’t underwater and don’t overwater.’ How do you know what the happy median is?

    PETER: I was going to say it’s almost like the three bears. We’ve got to find out what’s just right here. (chuckling) And it’s true. Actually, the way we say it is you should think about having about an inch of water on the lawn. And you do that, depending on where you live and how much heat you have, maybe two to three times a week.

    TOM: Well, it’s … the timing that you actually water the lawn is important, isn’t it, Peter? I mean I see, a lot of times, that people are watering the lawns in the middle of the day but that’s a bad time, isn’t it?

    PETER: That’s right. And it’s even worse if you do it in the evening. The best time to water is first thing in the morning.

    LESLIE: Is that because it needs time to evaporate and you don’t want it causing any sort of bacteria or mold growth?

    PETER: Well, that’s what happens if in the late evening you water. You’re likely to get fungus and then you can get some of the diseases that come in. Where if you water first thing in the morning, that water’s going to set into the ground and then, as the heat of the day comes up, it’s going to help protect the grass.

    TOM: Now, you also say, Peter, that fertilizing the lawns at the right time of the year is important. I think that fertilization is something that many people are confused about. Do you have to be a bit of a scientist to figure out what stuff to use and how much you have to put down?

    PETER: Well, there are certainly various ways to do it. And it is confusing. What we see people do is they tend to fertilize too much. Lot of people will fertilize four, sometimes five times a year. A lot of services will do that. In reality, probably two times will work.

    LESLIE: Is that like a beginning of the season, end of the season thing or smack in the middle?

    PETER: It depends on where you live. If you live in the Northeast or the Midwest, for those grasses it’s probably best to fertilize mid-season and then at the end of the season; which sets up the lawn for the next year. If you live in a warm season area, where you have a warm climate, fertilizing at the start of the year is the best way.

    TOM: We’re talking to Peter Sawchuck from Consumer Reports magazine. He’s the program leader for home improvement.

    So Peter, if we followed your 10 tips to beautiful lawns and we have, in fact, built ourselves a beautiful lawn, let’s switch gears and talk about some of the mowers that you guys tested in the latest issue. What did you find out about mowers that are available on the market today? What are your recommendations for the best ones for cutting performance, for mulching, for bagging and so on?

    PETER: Well, we did have a couple of surprises and what we’re seeing is you can get these, what we call an excellent rated mower, for less now. There are more mowers … those mowers used to be anywhere from $700 to $900. Those are really the best mowers you can buy. And they do … pretty much, you get what you pay for. So you do get, with those, the best cutting performance. Now we’re seeing three mowers that are in that category that are a little over $500.

    LESLIE: That’s good. Do you think the price has been brought down just because there are so many mowers out there that are meeting more expectations? Or do you think that, you know, building them has just gotten less expensive?

    PETER: Well, I used to be in the business. I’m telling you that building them isn’t getting less expensive; it’s probably getting more expensive. But I think that the pressure from the home centers has made the competition sharper and that they’ve pressured manufacturers to lower prices.

    TOM: Now, what about string trimmers? That’s something that is also a very popular tool. We’re seeing a lot more that are cordless today. What did you find with string trimmers for the best buys?

    PETER: Well first, on cordless – we didn’t find any cordless that really work well. Our opinion is there are better choices on those. But what we did find is there are corded electric units that are quite reasonable in price – $60 – that will cut as well as many of the gasoline models.

    LESLIE: That’s good to know. And I like that there’s a new introduction of a material that’s so helpful in the yard, which is mulch; and that’s rubber mulch. Tell us a little bit about that.

    PETER: Well, we did test the rubber mulch and the rubber mulch is very interesting because it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of about three times more expensive than the wooden mulch. But the real value of it is it’s quite heavy. So it doesn’t float away when you get a heavy rain and it doesn’t blow away.

    TOM: Yeah, but it doesn’t give you that nice cedar smell (laughing) after you put it down, though, does it? (laughing)

    PETER: No, not at all.

    TOM: Kind of smells like tires.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) We could infuse the rubber with cedar, if you wanted.

    TOM: Well, I bet that that would be great like under a swing set or an area like that; a playground area would probably be a lot safer.

    PETER: Well, actually, you want to be a little careful because some of the products had ground up tires and there’s actually kevlar tread and sometimes some steel pieces (inaudible) tread in it.

    TOM: Oh, interesting.

    LESLIE: Oh.

    TOM: Ooh, ouch.

    PETER: So, it wouldn’t be advisable for a playground. But where it’s … it’s best application would be for around trees and beds where you don’t have to go in and remulch as often.

    TOM: Peter Sawchuck from Consumer Reports, thanks for stopping by The Money Pit.

    Hey, the current issue of Consumer Reports is available wherever magazines are sold. The full report that Peter talked about is also available online at www.ConsumerReports.org.

    LESLIE: So do you live in your kitchen?

    TOM: I think most people do.

    LESLIE: Yeah, who doesn’t?

    TOM: I think that we probably spend more hours in our kitchen than in our bedrooms.

    LESLIE: And where does everybody go when you have a party? The kitchen. Everybody always wants to the be in the place. It’s the center of all activity in the home. Well, we’re going to give you a quick way to make your kitchen more of a living room, right after this.

    (promo/theme song)

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

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: So, how do we make kitchens more of a living room, because we all seem to spend much more time living there?

    LESLIE: Well, I think what you’re seeing, even with new construction in existing homes, is that the kitchens are becoming much larger than they ever used to be. So it gives you an opportunity to put in furniture that you might not have found traditionally in a kitchen. Like you can put living room furniture into your kitchen – perhaps some overstuffed chairs – so that if guests have an area to sit and relax with you while you prepare the meal or even have your own cooking show at home, you can say, ‘Hey, look what I’m making.’

    Some other things that you can do is you can create a work area in your kitchen so that your family can do their homework or surf the net or you know, browse on the computer and still be in the same room together; which is really nice, plus it lets you supervise exactly what the heck they’re doing online if you’ve got kids at home.

    TOM: So really, it gives you a little more elbow room than you may have had before. I mean it used to be that kitchens were so modular that if it wasn’t bolted to the wall it practically didn’t fit.

    LESLIE: Well, that’s true. And now you’re inviting so many more pieces of furniture into the room. You can even use an armoire to store linens or China and get rid of those bulky doors and build out something that’s maybe framed with some chicken wire and some fabric behind it so you still have some privacy for your storage but it looks a little bit more country and a little bit more kitcheny. Tons of ideas to make that space a lot more livable and a lot more friendly to the visitors.

    TOM: You need some ideas for your home improvement project? Call us right now at 888-MONEY-PIT. We will toss your name in the Money Pit hardhat because this hour we’re going to give away to one caller the Weather Channel Storm Tracker by Vector. Weather alert radio and flashlight. It’s worth 40 bucks. It’ll give you an automatic alert signal of all hazardous warnings in your area. It’s got a hand crank so you can actually charge it up so you don’t even need batteries to run this thing. 888-666-3974. Call right now.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Kevin in New Jersey listens to The Money Pit on the Discovery Radio Network. What can we do for you?

    KEVIN: OK. I have a split-level house. So that means the very first floor – the ground level – is a little bit below grade.

    TOM: OK.

    KEVIN: We call it the nothing room because (laughing) we just don’t know what (laughing) … I mean we don’t know what to do with it, you know?

    TOM: (laughing) OK.

    KEVIN: Halfway up the wall is the … is concrete. And then it’s like a little bit of a shelf and then it goes to sheetrock.

    TOM: Right, uh-huh.

    KEVIN: How can I cover that cinder block up so it just looks nice, you know what I mean?

    TOM: Well, in a situation like that, it’s probably … there’s really two ways to do it. Typically, if you were refinishing a basement room, we would tell you to build a wall in front of it. But in a small area like that, I think it’s OK to attach firring strips to the wall and to actually frame around that wall and then put a drywall over it.

    However, in this case, I would not recommend traditional drywall. I would a product called Dens Armor Plus. The reason for it is because Dens Armor plus has a fiberglass face; as opposed to a paper face. You know, regular drywall has a paper face and that can be mold food.

    KEVIN: Well see, what I want to do is I want to get rid of the shelf look.

    TOM: Alright, if you want to get rid of the shelf look, you have to (inaudible). Here’s how you do that. What you have to do is you have to frame out the wall to be as thick as the block wall below it. So you have to frame out the wood wall to match the thickness of the block wall.

    Now, there’s other consequences of that, Kevin, because what’s going to happen is your window jambs are going to be much deeper. Your door jambs are going to be much deeper. So you have to frame for that and you know, it’s just going to … it might be a little bit odd, but if you want it to be a continuous flat wall, that’s what you have to do.

    LESLIE: Lane in Texas is wondering if it’s time to replace that roof. Lane, how old is it?

    LANE: Ten years old.

    TOM: Mmm.

    LESLIE: Ten years old. You’re almost there. What’s it looking like?

    LANE: I had two opinions on there; waiting on a couple other estimates to come out. One guy climbed on the roof, walked on it and said he felt a couple soft spots. Another guy says that he can’t tell by that; you have to look at the eaves. See if the eaves are sagging. And he said there’s only one part of the eave that he said he’d be concerned about; on the backside of the house.

    TOM: What do you see? I mean why did you pick up the phone and call the guy? I mean did you see a leak or something?

    LANE: No, didn’t see a leak. It’s on a double wide mobile home and my neighbor down the street – his home is a little younger than ours is – and he found a couple patches in his roof when he had it replaced. And he found he did have a leak. So I’m using his blessing before his roof came in (laughing) to get ours checked out.

    TOM: Is this a flat roof? A low slope roof? Or is it a pitched roof?

    LANE: It has a little slope roof.

    TOM: OK. Well, 10 years on a low slope roof is pretty much the end of the normal life cycle.

    LESLIE: How does the slope affect the lifetime?

    TOM: Well, if you have a very, very low slope, it’s going to take a lot more wear and tear than if you had a very steep roof. So let’s say, for example, you had a 12 on 12 pitch on an asphalt shingle roof.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: That’s like a 45-degree roof. I’ll tell you, that roof could go like 25, 35 years. When you get down to a flat or a low slope roof, you’re lucky if you get 10 years out of it. So, I would say that, you know, regardless of whether you’re getting leaks, if you got … not getting a leak right today, you probably don’t have to replace it today. But it would not be money wasted …

    LESLIE: To replace it.

    TOM: … for you to replace that roof – exactly – in the next, you know, day to year or two years. You know what I mean? I mean, at this age …

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) (laughing) In the next now. Tomorrow.

    TOM: (chuckling) Yeah. At this age … right. At this age, you’re not going to be throwing your money away. Just I would concentrate on making sure I got the best possible roofer because when you have low slope roofing or flat roofing, if you don’t have good workmanship, it’s a big, stinking mess. I mean it really comes down to the workmanship as to whether or not that roof’s going to perform like it should be performing.

    LANE: OK. We’ve got a couple of estimates. We’re waiting on a couple of more. We’re planning on doing this in February.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, I would say to you, being price sensitive is fine, but make sure you be skill sensitive and make sure you’re working with somebody who’s well known in the neighborhood …

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Get references.

    TOM: … and has done a good job for other people. Get references. Exactly.

    LESLIE: And check them.

    TOM: Don’t just go for the cheap guy because you might get a bad job. OK?

    LANE: OK, sir.

    TOM: Alright. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    LESLIE: You got a ‘sir.’ You command authority there, Tom.

    TOM: I did. I did. (laughing)

    LESLIE: I would have been upset if there was a ma’am reference because, you know, I’m only 15.

    TOM: (laughing) Yes, ma’am.

    LESLIE: But sir was. (chuckling) Hey.

    TOM: Well, up next, we’re going to solve a pane-ful question for one of our emailers. Steve from Atlanta wants to know the difference and whether it makes sense to pay for single pane, double pane or triple pane glass. Have you wondered that question? Are you thinking about replacing your windows? We’ll give you the tips that you need to move forward smartly, next.

    (theme song)

    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. We now tackle a pane-ful question about windows from Steve in Atlanta.

    LESLIE: Okey-dokes. Steve writes: ‘We are thinking about buying a house built in 1993. Currently, we have a newer home with thermal pane windows. The 1993 house we’re looking at single pane windows. We’re concerned about the loss of energy through the single pane windows. Is that a valid point and, if so, should we consider replacing the windows if we buy the older house. Also, this is a large house – about 4,000 square feet.’ Man, that’s huge. ‘And how much can we expect to pay for proper replacement windows?’

    TOM: I can’t believe he bought a 1993 house, which is only what …

    LESLIE: And he thinks it’s old.

    TOM: It’s only 12 years old and it has single pane glass. I didn’t even know they were still making single pane glass in 1993. I mean that wasn’t that long ago and energy was pretty darn expensive.

    Well, Steve, a couple of things. First of all, speaking in terms of national average, probably double pane is the best way to go. I wouldn’t necessarily go triple pane unless you live in the northern, northern, northern, northern-most climates where it gets super, super cold because they’re more expensive and that’s the only way you’re going to get any kind of payback on that.

    In terms of the replacement windows themselves, what you want to do is look for ones that are Energy Star rated. Energy Star windows are going to be the most efficient because they’re built to a national energy standard. And also, Leslie, it occurs to me that now is a good time to replace the windows because there is an energy tax credit.

    LESLIE: (overlapping voices) Federal tax credit.

    TOM: That’s right.

    LESLIE: Federal tax credit’s great because it gives you up to $500 return – free money back to you – if you do any sort of Energy Star rated improvement in the years ’06 and ’07. So make sure you do it now. It’s a good time to get some money back.

    TOM: And in terms of the quality of those windows, Steve, you generally want to use vinyl-clad windows. Vinyl-clad windows I prefer over any type of metal replacement window because it doesn’t transfer the heat. But again, if you stick with Energy Star, it’s a great standard, you know? It’s a government standard that works. (laughing) Which is somewhat of a rarity these days. (chuckling) You know, the Energy Star windows. You can get in some (inaudible) …

    LESLIE: You’re going to get audited talking like that, Tom. (laughing)

    TOM: I know. Right? (laughing)

    LESLIE: That’s Tom Kraeutler, everyone, of New Jersey. (laughing)

    TOM: (overlapping voices) You know, you could go … yeah, that’s right. That’s right. And his co-host, Leslie Segrete …

    LESLIE: I didn’t say it.

    TOM: … who put him up to saying that. (laughing) Well, it’s good advice nonetheless. Energy Star. You want information, you can go to EnergyStar.gov.

    Well, Leslie, in my family of three children plus a wife plus me, we do one thing very well. We generate lots and lots of trash. (laughing) And I hear, on today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word, you’ve got some tips on how to keep all of those trash cans in your house smelling better.

    LESLIE: Well, how many pounds do you think your family of five has about, every week?

    TOM: About 600.

    LESLIE: (laughing) Six hundred pounds of trash.

    TOM: Listen, we have two trash pickups a week …

    LESLIE: We do, too.

    TOM: … and I have three cans that are always full.

    LESLIE: And they … yeah, they never go empty.

    TOM: They never go empty.

    LESLIE: There’s always something to pick up. And it’s so funny. As soon as you take that trash out, doesn’t that bag fill up one more time almost immediately?

    TOM: Instantly. (laughing)

    LESLIE: It’s crazy.

    Alright. Well, folks, the average family of three – average family of three – generates about 40 pounds of garbage per week. That is a lot of stinky trash – sitting in your house, sitting right near your house, touching that garbage. Just because it’s in a bag doesn’t mean it’s not contaminating that garbage pail. So you need to do a couple of things that’ll help keep your house smelling more fresh and keep your garbage cans looking and smelling clean.

    What you want to do is make sure you rinse them every week. So try to, on your last trash pickup of the week, take out that can, clean it with a solution of borax and warm water. This is going to help keep your germs at bay, keep things smelling fresh and also keep a little spray solution around of some bleach and water. This way, when you take out that trash bag, while you’re carrying it outside, spray that can inside your house with this bleach and water; let it dry before you put in the new bag. It’ll keep everything fresh and it’ll also keep things safe, folks. So don’t forget to clean your trash bags.

    TOM: Do you like quick tips like that? Sign up for the free Money Pit e-newsletter. Those sorts of tips are available every single week for free. Sign up at MoneyPit.com.

    That’s about all the time we have for this hour of the program. Thank you so much for stopping by. You got a question, you can call us, remember, 24/7 at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    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 2 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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