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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:

    (theme song)

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974. We’re here to help you get those jobs done around your house. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer we can help. If you’re a direct-it-yourselfer we can help. If you’re a do-it-to-yourselfer …

    LESLIE: Here’s a Band-Aid. (chuckles)

    TOM: Yeah, we can especially help. 888-666-3974.

    Hey, coming up this hour we’ve got a great show planned for you. Are you ready to build or remodel your home? Well, there’s one item that may not be on your list that you definitely should consider installing and we’re going to tell you why backup power can really get you out of a jam. The prices have come way down, the installation’s gotten super simple and we’re going to tell you all about it in just a bit.

    LESLIE: And also ahead, if you’ve done some renovations at home you already know that planning a budget is tricky business and the cost can easily get away from you and far, far away from you. Well if you’re thinking about renovating your kitchen are you wondering exactly how much it’s going to cost you out of your pocket? We’re going to help you take the guesswork out of all of these equations with a kitchen checklist a little later this hour.

    TOM: And if you’re about to replace your windows there’s one critical safety tip you need to be aware of. It has to do with the security of those windows and the risks of kids falling out of them. We’ll tell you all about it in just a bit.

    LESLIE: Plus this hour we’re giving away a prize pack from Live Eyewear. It’s two pairs of safety goggles and it’s worth 70 bucks.

    TOM: So call us right now at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.

    Leslie, who’s first?

    LESLIE: Ann in Connecticut, welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    ANN: Hi, we put in a pearl hot tub, oh, probably a couple of years ago when we were building our house; and unfortunately, when I did the painting I missed some spackles of paint on the tub itself. It’s navy blue and I got most of it but I’ve got little tiny specks that have been on there now for quite a while. Is there any way to get them off?

    LESLIE: And this is a fiberglass hot tub?

    ANN: Yes.

    LESLIE: What about – have you tried using a rubbing compound? Like very, very delicately; you know, don’t be too aggressive with it. If you just carefully take a little bit of the rubbing compound on a damp cloth and then just sort of, in a circular motion, quickly go over the paint area it should lift it right off then you can go ahead and wax that area.

    ANN: OK, well so is it a rubbing compound for like an auto or is there a special thing that I should look for?

    TOM: The kind of rubbing compound that you use for your car. It’s available at, you know, Pep Boys and other auto part stores and places like that.

    ANN: Fabulous. Well, I’ll give it a try. Thanks.

    TOM: Alright, good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Doug in Utah, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    DOUG: Yes, I’ve got a question regarding an earthy smell from my hot water …

    TOM: Hmm.

    DOUG: … that is coming through when we take a shower, when we use the sink; and the situation is the house is only four years old and what could this be. And it hasn’t always been that way. It just started within the last couple of months.

    TOM: Doug, are you on well water or city water?

    DOUG: City water.

    TOM: That’s unusual. You may want to have a water test done just to confirm for yourself that there’s nothing harmful there. But when you have city water, generally there is very thorough oversight of the quality of the water.

    DOUG: Right.

    TOM: If odor is a problem or taste is a problem what you can do on the point of you side is add a large charcoal filtration system right near the main water valve and that will run that water through the filtration system and take out the odor or the taste issues.

    DOUG: Alright, well we’ll get the test done and go from there.

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

    LESLIE: You are listening to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. Now you can call in your home repair or your home improvement question 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Someone is always standing by to take your question. No matter how harried and crazy it might be, we’ve got an answer for you. Give us a call at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

    TOM: 888-666-3974.

    Up next, there were 11 million power failures in this country in the last 12 months. We’ll tell you how to make sure a blackout doesn’t happen to you, after this.

    (theme song)

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

    TOM: 888-666-3974. Welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us right now with your home improvement question. We’ll give you the answer and a chance at winning a great prize to keep you safe through those projects because this hour we’re giving away a pair of Live Eyewear to one caller that reaches us and comes on the air and asks their question at 888-MONEY-PIT. They’re very, very stylish safety glasses that will keep your eyes safe through all of those projects.

    LESLIE: Alright, pick up the phone; give us a call. Maybe you’re tossing around some ideas about a remodel or an addition or maybe you even just want to toss around some ideas about building your dream home from scratch. Well if you find you’re at a point to do a major remodel and you’re taking on this home improvement, why not think about a standby generator? You know an automatic generator that kicks on when the power goes out is a really fantastic addition to have in your home; especially if you live in areas of the country that are prone to storms, seasonal power outages, rolling blackouts. You know we’re such a tech-savvy, heavily-dependent upon our computer and information and all sorts of things that perhaps we’re not backing up as regularly as we should be and a power outage can really destroy everything. I mean think about all the stuff you’ve got in your home. Now imagine everybody else on the block with the lights out and your lights on. I think that happened to you, Tom, once. Right?

    TOM: It did. Actually I did think about all the stuff I had in my home. In fact, I actually had a power outage once that was pretty severe for several days and after that I purchased and installed a standby generator. I used a Guardian by Generac; standby generator. And the reason I got it was because it totally repowers my entire house within 30 seconds of the blackout.

    LESLIE: Yeah, and they kick on by themselves so you don’t have to worry about anything, right?

    TOM: Totally by itself and it runs on natural gas or it can run on propane if you’re not in an area that has natural gas. But because it’s running on natural gas or propane, there’s no gasoline to worry about. So it’s totally automatic; it’s totally mindless. When the power goes out this thing automatically kicks back on and it’s so cool to have. So it’s a really good idea to think about installing one. And the prices have actually come way down now. The Generac units start at under 2,000 bucks and so …

    LESLIE: Is that with installation or no?

    TOM: No, not with installation. You have to buy the generator, you buy the GenReady switch which is the transfer switch that sort of takes the place of your main electrical panel.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: But once it’s all installed it’s just great; especially when the power goes out and I come home at night and I’m the only house on the block that’s got lights.

    LESLIE: You just have to make sure you have enough groceries and food on hand for all the neighbors that are going to come mooching over.

    TOM: No, enough refrigerator space because neighbors come over with their milk and their cheese (Leslie chuckles) and everything else that they don’t want to go bad. So it’s a pretty cool idea and the prices are coming down, so definitely good thing to think about.

    888-666-3974. Let’s get back to the phones and see what you want to talk about.

    Leslie, who’s next?

    LESLIE: Jean in New Hampshire, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    JEAN: Hey, my back steps are made of solid concrete …

    TOM: OK.

    JEAN: … and the bottom one is breaking away from the rest of them.

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    JEAN: And there’s about a two-inch gap.

    TOM: Ooh, that’s a big one.

    JEAN: Plus the railing is loose, too. I was wondering if I could fill it in with some cement?

    TOM: But not regular cement. What you want to use is a patching cement. It has an epoxy component to it which makes it very sticky so it adheres well and it’s not going to fall out. That step configuration is going to be pretty elastic. It’s going to move. It’s going to expand and contract and if you use a traditional, plain, cement patch it will crack very quickly and fall out but if you use an epoxy patching compound it won’t. QUIKRETE makes several good products that will do the trick for this.

    JEAN: OK, and can I also fill in the holes where the railing is, too, with that?

    TOM: Is the railing loose?

    JEAN: Yes.

    TOM: OK. Well if the railing is loose you’re going to have to take the bolts out; fill the holes or, depending on how it’s set up, you could rebolt the holes in, you could use lead shields, you could use a different size fastener, you could use a mounting plate. You have to look at a more mechanical way to adhere this because putting the patching compound in there is not going to make the railing stiffer.

    JEAN: OK, sounds great.

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

    LESLIE: Now we’re going to take a painting question from David in Oklahoma. What’s going on at your money pit?

    DAVID: Well, we have a house that I guess the people before hired some just handyman kind of guy and they gave him latex paint and I think that he’s painted latex paint on enamel.

    TOM: Where is the paint? Are we talking about the trim inside the house or outside? What have we got?

    DAVID: No, no. It’s inside. It’s on the trim and also on some of the walls. Some of the walls are a natural wood but most of them are painted.

    TOM: So basically we’re having an adhesion issue here?

    DAVID: Oh, yes. You can just rub it with your thumb and it’ll come off. So of course if you’re ever moving things around and you bump something …

    TOM: Right.

    DAVID: … it really comes off.

    TOM: Well, you bring up a common problem, David, and that is that you can’t put latex on top of enamel without you at least prepping the surface. Prepping the surface when you’re changing from an enamel to a latex means sanding it and also hitting it with a primer. The primer is the glue that makes the paint stick and if they’ve skipped that step then this is going to be a constant problem. So unfortunately there’s no magic solution here that’s going to stop the problem from happening. When you have a bad adhesion problem with paint it’s going to be a matter of you sanding off what’s there trying to get to a durable surface that’s not peeling …

    LESLIE: What about using a stripping agent to sort of help you get further along than just sandpaper would?

    TOM: Well he certainly could do that but I don’t think you have to strip it down to raw wood. You certainly have to rough up the old surface. If this latex coat is coming off pretty easily you could probably do this all with sandpaper.

    LESLIE: Well it’s the summer barbecuing season and sitting out on your deck is a great place to be but Mike’s dealing with a problem out there. How can we help you?

    MIKE: Well, I have a deck that goes all the way around the house and it’s covered but the guy who built it I guess didn’t use pressure treated wood and the paint is peeling up. I was wondering if there’s anything else I could do besides replacing these boards; if I could get like a sander – you know, like you do hardwood floors – and then repaint it.

    LESLIE: Well I mean absolutely. What you’re going to have to do is you’re going to have to get down to a raw surface; especially in the areas where you’re dealing with the paint chipping up and peeling. You can use a chemical stripping product – Flood makes some great ones that are out there – to get all of that paint off and get down to a raw surface, which will save you a ton of elbow grease from the sanding. You know you may need to sand some areas where you’re dealing with problematic pieces of paint that won’t come off, but once you do that and you put more paint on it’s going to need to be painted again and again.

    A better option might be a solid stain; you know, especially depending how much of that paint you can get off and how comfortable you feel and what color you’re going with, a solid stain – every manufacturer makes one – it just penetrates the wood. Rather than sitting on top like a paint does the stain goes into the grain itself, but it’s – you know it’s very opaque almost as a paint but you do still see some of the graining texture to the lumber itself. So it’s not like the paint that just covers over everything.

    TOM: There’s some options for you, Mike. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

    LESLIE: Pauline in Massachusetts, welcome to The Money Pit. What’s going on at your house?

    PAULINE: Well what’s going on in my house is that on my bathroom window and also my den window, which are both on the same side of the house, there’s a water mark as though there was a spill on the windowsills all on the right side and it looked a little blown up. I was away and I came home and it was a little blown up and now it’s dried up but we’re left with water marks as though there’s still a spill on it but they’re dry. What can I do or is there a possibility that it’s not dry somewhere else underneath?

    LESLIE: This is on the sill not on the glass, correct?

    PAULINE: Yeah, on the sill and a little in the bathroom where there’s a Jacuzzi underneath; you know, it’s flush against that wall which wasn’t used at all.

    TOM: I think you’re going to have to keep an eye on it because we need to know if it’s still active or not.

    PAULINE: No, it’s not active now. It’s totally dry.

    TOM: OK.

    PAULINE: But it looks as though there had been a spill there, you know, and now it’s stained. It’s sort of – it’s the same color but it looks – there’s a watermark like you get sometimes in carpeting? That line?

    TOM: I understand. But it’s on the windowsill. Is the windowsill …?

    PAULINE: It’s on both sills.

    TOM: The sills are painted or stained?

    PAULINE: Painted.

    TOM: OK, well then this is easy to fix. Do you happen to have any of that paint around?

    PAULINE: Yeah.

    TOM: Good. Don’t put it on before you put a primer step on first.

    PAULINE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: OK? You’ve got to use a primer coat because what’ll happen is if you try to repaint that with a water stain …

    PAULINE: Yes?

    TOM: … that stain will put right through the paint and it’ll show up again and you’ll …

    PAULINE: Oh, OK.

    TOM: … you’ll just be – you’ll be hating yourself. So …

    PAULINE: Is there any particular kind of primer? Is there a kind that I have to use?

    TOM: If it’s just a little water stain like that you can use a water-based primer. You can go out and pick up a Behr water-based primer or a KILZ water-based primer. Get a little small can of it. They come in the pint-sized can. Get one of those foam brushes …

    PAULINE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … as you have a really small paint job here and do a coat of primer first. Prime the entire sill, not just the spot …

    PAULINE: Mm-hmm.

    TOM: … because otherwise when you put the paint on it won’t sort of lay right.

    LESLIE: Not going to match.

    TOM: Yeah. Well, it’s like rougher in one area than the other. And then just repaint the sill …

    PAULINE: How long do I wait in between the processes?

    TOM: Just enough for the primer to dry; you know, an hour or so if it’s a warm day. Shouldn’t be a problem.

    PAULINE: OK. Thank you so much. I appreciate your help.

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

    LESLIE: Now to talk heating with Tom in Texas. What can we do for you today?

    TOM IN TEXAS: I’d like to install the radiant floor heating under either ceramic or porcelain, but my question relates to a radiant barrier. It’s going to be on a concrete slab and I had read somewhere on the internet that if I apply that to concrete slab the heat will radiate down through the cold slab instead of up. So I had read that I need a radiant barrier. What is the best product or do I even need that?

    TOM: Are you talking about electric radiant heat or are you talking about making this a hot water radiant heated floor?

    TOM IN TEXAS: Electric.

    TOM: Tom, that’s a good question. If you’re going to put a radiant floor, an electric radiant floor, above a concrete slab it is important to insulate the slab first. So typically, the order would be to put an insulation down first, then to put the radiant panels, then to go with the finished flooring on top of that. Now, whether or not you put a radiant barrier is really up to you. Some insulation products have a radiant barrier integral to the insulation; others do not. But either is going to isolate the heating unit from the concrete and help throw most of that heat up; which is the goal here, to throw all the heat up into the room.

    LESLIE: This is The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show.

    When we come back, are you thinking about a kitchen remodel or a major kitchen remodel and does the word major send dollar signs across your eyelids inside your brain as you’re daydreaming about all of that money? (Tom chuckles) ‘How much is it going to cost me?’ Well we have got a checklist so your budget does not get away from you, so stick around.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Citrus Magic; the all-natural, super-strong air freshener available in spray and solid form. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: Call us now with your home improvement questions, especially if that question is ‘What is it going to cost me to build a new kitchen?’ because we’ve got a great expert standing by to talk about that. You know, if you’d done some major renovations at home you know that planning a budget is pretty tricky and the cost can easily get out of hand. But if you’re thinking about doing your kitchen there are many, many, many variables to look at (Leslie chuckles) and even for a minor kitchen remodel the prices can get out of control pretty darn quick.

    LESLIE: Yeah, well we want to help you take the guesswork out of the equation with a checklist and, thankfully, the folks at Fine Homebuilding, they can help us do that and help you do that. And here to tell us more is Kevin Ireton, the magazine’s editor.

    Welcome, Kevin.

    KEVIN: Hi, Leslie. Hi, Tom.

    TOM: Now this is a big question. What is it going to cost to get my kitchen remodeled? How do you start to break that down and what are the major areas of concern that homeowners need to think about?

    KEVIN: Well, the kitchen is absolutely the most expensive real estate in any house. It’s going to be the most expensive room to remodel. And you know it’s not uncommon for people to – you know, to come up with a budget, to get into a project and realize it’s going to cost twice as much as they thought.

    LESLIE: Five times as much. (chuckling)

    KEVIN: Exactly, we hear that all the time. And so the thing that you really need to do is try to be as specific as you can up front in figuring out what your design is going to cost so that you can change things, change the design before you actually start building. And …

    LESLIE: Well I mean in general speaking, Kevin, is it better to sort of leave things where they lay; you know, not trying to add second sinks or moving the sink completely across the room to sort of keep costs down? I mean because that seems like a major budget buster.

    KEVIN: Absolutely. The more things that are moving, whether it’s if you’re moving walls, if you’re moving the location of your sink, moving electrical outlets; the more things that are moving, you know, the more that’s going to raise the cost.

    TOM: So the first key is to try to keep things as close to where they physically are as possible but what does that do for you when you want to expand the kitchen because the original one is not working? I mean what if you just don’t want some brand new cabinets? What if you want to expand? How do you make those decisions strategically so prices don’t get out of control?

    KEVIN: What I think people need to do is to sit down – you know, either a husband and wife or sit down with your builder or your architect – and really try to make as accurate a list of all the things you want to do as possible and the checklist that we developed has, you know, like 25 different things from removing the ceiling to moving a wall to new windows. You know. List out all of those things and we actually suggest that people, for each of those things, kind of rate it on a scale of one to five from is this an easy change and going to be inexpensive or is this going to be very expensive.

    TOM: And then you can also decide how important it is to you.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    KEVIN: That’s exactly the point is to try to get a ballpark cost up front so that if you are over-budget you can figure out which of these things aren’t really as important as you thought they were in order to stay within your budget.

    LESLIE: Now with that rating system, I mean it seems like, you know, a lot of homeowners sort of underestimate the necessity of actually a certain part of the project. So does it make sense, once you’ve sort of compiled this list to sit down with a builder and be like, ‘Hey, help us rate this so we know better instead of just us guessing in generality?’

    KEVIN: Absolutely. I mean that’s the – the thing is that there are so many factors that affect the cost that a lot of people don’t necessarily think about. I mean one of the things on our list is just, say, access to the kitchen. Is it easy for the contractors to pull up, park right near the kitchen door and get into the house? Or do they have to walk a long distance through a lot of the rest of the house to get to the kitchen; so removing debris, for instance, is therefore more complicated and more expensive? A lot of things like that that people don’t necessarily think about when they’re just sitting around thinking, ‘Hey, I’d like to have new cabinets.’

    TOM: We’re talking to Kevin Ireton — he’s the editor of Fine Homebuilding magazine – about a new tool that they have that’s actually online at MyRemodelingProject.com and it’s a guide to help you plan the cost of rebuilding a kitchen.

    Now Kevin, aside from the physical changes, any advice on the selection of materials in terms of what is the most cost effective way to go? There’s a lot of options out there in materials today and, you know, how do you try to decide where your money is best spent?

    KEVIN: It’s going to come down to everybody’s own individual choice. I mean for instance, with countertops, you know plastic laminate is going to be the most inexpensive countertop that you can do. On the other end of the spectrum is granite. So you kind of have to decide. With regards to a sink, for instance, stainless steel sinks are typically going to be the least expensive. But there are other things to know. For instance, with cast iron sinks if you choose white cast iron it’s likely going to be less expensive than any other colored cast iron sinks.

    LESLIE: It could be worth it as a homeowner to be like, ‘You know what? I’m willing to sacrifice X in order to get that granite countertop,’ so you really need to look at it from your own design perspective.

    KEVIN: Exactly and that’s why it’s important to be as specific as possible about where your cost is going.

    TOM: It’s a great point and it’s a great tool. MyRemodelingProject.com from the folks at Fine Homebuilding magazine.

    Kevin Ireton, the editor, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: Thank you, guys. It’s been a pleasure.

    LESLIE: Alright, Kevin, thanks for helping us keep those dollars in our wallets and our kitchens still looking fantastic.

    Alright, Money Pit listeners, did you know that leaving windows open in warm weather lets air in and keeps the bugs out? But the screens that you have on there are not designed to protect your kids from a potentially dangerous fall. We’re going to tell you what will with window safety, right after this.

    (theme song)

    ANNOUNCER: The Money Pit is brought to you by Rheem water heaters. For dependable, energy-efficient tank and tankless water heaters, you can trust Rheem. Learn more at SmarterHotWater.com. Now, here are Tom and Leslie.

    TOM: Making good homes better, welcome back to the Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show. I’m Tom Kraeutler.

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete.

    TOM: And do you cringe every time you pull up to your house because your front door is an absolute disaster? Well, it might be time to get a new one and we’ve got a great way for you to do just that. Head on over to MoneyPit.com and click on the button for the Ugliest Door in America contest sponsored by Therma-Tru Doors. It’s a brand new contest that can give you a brand new front door. In fact, they’re going to be giving away two front door entry makeovers worth a whole bunch of money.

    LESLIE: Yeah, they’re looking for two of the worst looking doors in America. They’re going to pick the two ugliest that they find in two entry categories: photography and videos. So get creative, show us why you think your door is so hideous. You could win a front entry system from Therma-Tru worth $5,000. So make sure you enter right now at MoneyPit.com.

    TOM: 888-666-3974. If you’ve got a home improvement question call us right now for the answer. We’ll do our best to help you out.

    Leslie, who’s next.

    LESLIE: Well, this time of year not only brings lovely weather; it brings our winged friends, termites, and Glen in Arizona is dealing with them right now. Tell us about it.

    GLEN: I’ve got a problem that’s been bugging me.

    TOM: Alright.

    GLEN: We had to cut some oak trees down; they had some disease and such and I decided to cut them into one-inch boards to make some – 10 or 12 gun cabinets out of and then I stacked them away inside on a gravel floor and I put treated 2x4s under them and a year or so later I’m looking at them and they’ve got – they’ve had termites get up in there.

    TOM: Well, what you need to do is you need to treat that area. If you want to use that to store the wood then I would treat the soil underneath and the way to do that today is with an undetectable termidicide. There are a couple of different manufacturers that make these products. They have to be professionally applied. But the way they work is pretty sneaky. Once they put the termidicide in the soil the termites don’t know it’s there so they go through this on the way back to the next because termites live deep in the soil and they return to the soil for water then they come back up into the house – or, in your case, the shed – to feed on that nice, new oak that you have there then they go back for water. So as they pass through the chemical and they take it back to their nests it totally wipes out all the termites. So if you’re going to use this for wood storage I think it would definitely be worth your while and while you’re at it, make sure that you have the insect guys check the house because you may be having termite problems there and it’s a good idea to have it inspected.

    GLEN: Great advice.

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

    LESLIE: Marian in Massachusetts, welcome to The Money Pit. How can we help you today?

    MARIAN: I have a musty smell in my home and I’ve tried airing it out but it doesn’t seem to help.

    LESLIE: Where are you finding this odor? Is it in the basement? Is it …?

    MARIAN: It’s mainly in the main house; all in …

    LESLIE: So throughout the entire house on the first floor, second floor, even where you have …?

    MARIAN: The first floor.

    TOM: Have you had a lot of rain?

    MARIAN: No, but I did have a leak in a Frigidaire that went down probably through the floor.

    TOM: What kind of heating system do you have, Marian?

    MARIAN: I have hot water.

    TOM: Hot water. So you have a very humid heating system, which is not unusual because you’re going to have a lot of moisture in the house when that happens. So the musty smell is pretty consistent with that. I think what you’re going to have to do is take some steps to reduce that level of humidity in the house and the way you do that is by starting on the outside of the house looking at the grading and the drainage. This is the angle of the soil around the house. You’re trying to reduce the amount of moisture that gets around the foundation perimeter. If you reduce the moisture in your house you usually can reduce those odors as well. So grading and drainage at the outside foundation, which means keep an eye on the landscaping, make sure the soil is sloping away from the wall; keep an eye on the roof gutters, make sure they’re free flowing, they’re empty, they’re not clogged and the downspouts are extending out well away from that foundation perimeter.

    Inside the house take a look at the roof ventilation. You want to make sure that you’ve got vents on the roof because what happens is you get moisture that traps at the foundation, it works its way up through inside the house, it builds up a vapor pressure and it kind of sits and adds to that musty, moist, smell that’s going on inside the house and if you can move some of that air through you’re going to reduce that odor.

    MARIAN: Oh, great. Thank you very much.

    TOM: Well, if you’ve been thinking about replacing your windows, here’s an important consideration – window screens. If you’ve got kids you’ve got to realize that the new window screens in these windows; they’re not designed to keep the kids safe. The old windows that you probably replaced could have had those very heavy window screens; you can bang on them; you know, kids throw balls at them, they bounce right off. The new window screens, not so much. They’re designed pretty much just to keep the bugs out. So if you’re going to put brand new windows in, an important thing to remember is to also add child safety bars and when you choose them make sure the safety bars have quick-release mechanisms so that you can get out in the event of a fire.

    More tips, after this.

    (theme song)

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

    LESLIE: And I’m Leslie Segrete and you can listen to The Money Pit when you want, where you want if you go ahead and download our free Money Pit podcast. All you have to do is go to MoneyPit.com/listen and you can learn how to do it and start downloading those free podcasts right now.

    TOM: And while you’re at MoneyPit.com click on Ask Tom and Leslie and shoot us an e-mail. Let’s tackle an e-mail right now from Sharon in Springfield, Louisiana. Sharon says: ‘What’s the secret to easy caulking? I’ve heard of keeping your fingers dipped in water or alcohol. What do you suggest?’

    Well, it is true that your finger is the best caulk trowel out there in terms of …

    LESLIE: I’ve only used water. I’ve never heard of the alcohol trick.

    TOM: Yeah, I’ve never heard of alcohol but I guess if you were using like a silicone the alcohol, any kind of solvent, would do the same thing; although I wouldn’t recommend it. But I’ll give you a good secret for caulking your bathtub, which is probably the most popular caulking project in the house, and that is this Sharon. The first thing you want to do after you get all the old caulk out and it’s all cleaned up is fill the tub up with water and then caulk it and let the caulk dry. The reason you’re doing that is because the tub sort of gets stretched down when the weight of all that water is in there and after the caulk dries and you let the tub drain then the next time you step in it to take a shower or fill it up to take a bath it’s not going to pull the caulk and stress it out and rip it and the caulk actually will last a lot longer if you do that first.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm, and I always find use your dominant hand, use your pointer finger and wipe your finger off often so you’re not getting a wider trail as you sort of go along the caulk line. It’s no problem. You’ll have a great time with it.

    Alright, we’ve got one here from Bonnie in Nevada City, California who writes: ‘My gutter is leaking at a corner right above the front entry. I’ve noticed a small hole and have tried to caulk it but it still leaks. Is it possible the seam is leaking as well and is it possible to fix this leak myself?

    TOM: It certainly is. I would use asphalt roof cement instead of caulk on that seam and sort of paint it in across that space and see if that does it. It tends to be a little more stretchy than caulk and it’ll expand and contract with that gutter and not leak.

    LESLIE: Alright, just be safe on that ladder, Bonnie, and good luck.

    TOM: Well, if you’d like some ideas to give your house a fresh, new look you can just change some of the accessories. Accessorizing your house is something that Leslie is particularly good at and that’s what she’s going to talk about in today’s edition of Leslie’s Last Word.

    LESLIE: Well, I love to do it and it keeps costs down while keeping your home looking fresh and seasonal and you know you can put them away season after season and bring them out as the seasons change. So it’s a one-time investment that doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. And now that you’re finding that the weather across the country has warmed up and we’re seeing longer days of sunshine, you want to really let your home’s interior reflect what’s going on outside, especially for your mood and your spirit. It’ll be so uplifting.

    Change out your heavy and your dark toned winter linens, bedding and towels for ones that are more lightweight and softer in color and more airy because fabrics tend to really reflect the season and winter ones are so weighty and warm and you just don’t need it now that summer is knocking on the door. Your draperies can also feel more seasonally appropriate. If you choose ones that have a gauzy, light feel to them, those will encourage cool breezes and let that nice air in or even swap a fabric shade for one in a bamboo or a nice reed to help bring that natural, green, earthiness into the home. Even your throw pillows and area rugs; those can be swapped out for more summery colors and textures to inspire that beachy frame of mind. If you change your home’s d

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